Tag Archives: Waking The Feminists

The Peacock Theatre: The Remains of Maisie Duggan

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One door closes just for another one to fly open. 18 days of first -class theatre are in full swing with Dublin Theatre Festival.

While The Abbey stage is about to open with Frank McGuinness’s new musical Donegal, the Peacock is enjoying its second week of provincial Irish surrealism. A new play by Carmel Winters – The remains of Maisie Duggan – is probably the perfect link between the grotesque fringe and the modern theatre festivals.

As any proper Irish story, this sharp 90 min piece unravels the string of life and misfortunes of the Duggans, a family from North Cork. No family is a proper family unless there is a boiling mixture of hatred, resentment and well tucked deep down inside love for one another. The Duggans aren’t an exception. Maisie, the mother of the family (played by Bríd Ní Neachtain), has a car accident which makes her believe (or rather wish for) that she is dead. In a terrible confusion in the post office involving an Eastern European newbie Maisie’s long estranged daughter, who is now living with the Salvation Army in London, receives a message on Facebook which simply states that her mother had died and funeral arrangements would follow. Booking a three day trip to her long forgotten homeland, Kathleen (played by Rachel O’Brien) finally steps on the wet Irish soil. The mad mother, the resentful and abusive father (played by John Olohan) and the slightly autistic brother (played by Cillian Ó Gairbhí) might be exactly the reason why Kathleen left in the first place. But she too has demons of her own and unresolved issues that she chooses to run from.

I don’t think it would be an underestimation to say that The Remains of Maisie Duggan is quite a dark play. Unimaginably controversial things happen on stage in plain sight. To mention but a few perfect examples of the thin border between fringeness and social taboo: urination on a new grave and death of an animal (not a real one though, but still!).

The Remains of Maisie Duggan is, it’s safe to say, a play unlike any other. Even though not a very realistic one but it portrays the essence of life in rural Irish community, the mentality of the country folk and the secrets well hidden behind the closed doors. It shows the existence of people for whom death is a better looking option than life. The play bears no buried metaphors, it openly shocks, unnerves and staggers the wildest of imaginations.

With the atmospheric set design (by Fly Davis), the Duggans house represents the border between this and the other life. Half-burned, half-neglected, it’s a portal to the afterworld. And something’s telling us that for people like the Duggans it just might not be heaven. But anything is better than hell on earth.

The lighting design (by Sarah Jane Shiels) reminded me a lot of the one elaborated for The Gate’s current production of The Father. Unfortunately for this play, Rick Fisher’s idea worked quite nicely for the kind of the piece The Father is, while in the case of The Remains of Maisie Duggan, it mostly blinds people who are already in a deep awe from what’s happening on stage.

Otherwise, quite an interesting viewing, The Remains of Maisie Duggan, directed by Ellen McDougall, is a very brave piece of theatre that will challenge the views of some of the audience members. Runs in the Peacock Theatre until October 29th. For more info or to book a chance of peeping through the closed curtains: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/the-remains-of-maisie-duggan/

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Filed under carmel winters, Dublin Theatre Festival, The Peacock Theatre, The remains of Maisie Duggan, Uncategorized

The International Bar: Triangles

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If you are in a bad need of a post-fringe detox (as one might easily be since there is such little time to get over one event just before another one is about to hit), then I’ve got just the right play for you. Sad Strippers Theatre presents Triangles.

Written by the company’s very own Ciara Smyth and performed by the other two company members, the play is an indescribable kaleidoscope of games that the characters play on stage and that entangles into one whole piece. Chair (played by Laura Brady), Muesli (played by Meg Healy) and Bread (played by Ciara Smyth) entertain themselves by re-enacting different scenes that they might have witnessed.  After the end of  each scene they repeat it again and again each time adding something new or switching characters. The result is always the same though usually unpredictable.

In this crispy fast-paced thirty minute piece, the three actors give a performance filled with an incredible amount of energy, joy and laughter. With the bare minimum that the performing space in the International bar can offer, the three actors did an amazing job to create the atmosphere. Not relying particularly on lights, set or props (as the majority of other productions usually do), the show was completely stolen by the beautiful and very skillful acting. The characterisation was remarkably strong. I was reminded of cartoons where each personality, even though blown up immensely, still remains believable, carefully crafted and quite unique.

Triangles is a great example of a story where the third isn’t necessarily the odd one out, but the wheel that keeps the show (and the laughter) rolling. So, if you find yourself stranded and lost on the path in between the two biggest theatre festivals, allow yourself a break and pop into the International Bar for a bun and a blast. Triangles is closing on September 30th. For more info or to book the tickets: https://www.facebook.com/events/1665535230426742/

 

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Dood Paard: Botox Angels (IDGTF).

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Wonderful news for all the theatre lovers out there. Dublin Gay Theatre Festival has opened yesterday; and, as the tradition goes, the first week is filled with little (and big) gems of gay theatre from all over the world, which in itself is an amazing opportunity to see world class work without leaving Dublin.

I opened the festival for myself with what happened to be one of the most mind-blowing performances this year so far: Botox Angels brought over and presented by the corky Dutch theatre company Dood Paard.

Botox Angles is unlike any other play you have ever seen. Botox Angles is a piece about three women who dream about living together while the society, and its far from liberating rules, stands in their way. And, as they put it themselves, it’s not “I love you” anymore, it’s “I love you both”.

The piece strikes from the moment one enters the auditorium. The famous “Una donna senza uomo” is playing on the speakers; there are three half naked girls, wearing fake blond wigs and screaming make-up, who are greeting the audience each in their own way.

“…Such a beautiful harmony of chromosomes” the actresses truly are. During the slightly over an hour piece we witness Manja, Janneke and Ellen mock-interview each other (the microphone is a separate subject all together) on a number of crucially important topics: love, life, women in society, body, relationships, feminism. Each character has a very strong position and an amazingly defined character. In addition to that, every character has her bit of wisdom that she shares with the audience in a very light but deeply attracting way that one can’t help but listen to. Be it the body language or the soft tone of voice, the conversations are insanely charming. Every monologue in this piece can easily be ripped apart for quotes.

The fun doesn’t not stop there! In between the interviews, the actresses re-enact some of the famous pieces created by world famous female artists. It goes from slightly spooky Marina Abramovic’s Art must be beautiful, Artists must be beautiful artwork to absolutely shocking and feminist-though prvoking Yoko Ono’s 1964 Cut Piece, where the girl is being stripped from her dress by other people cutting random pieces from it with big scissors.

Now imagine all those highly feminist proclamations being  spoken from a huge queen sized bed covered with just as huge cozy  dark blue blanket. A boudoir conversation it is not.

The actresses, who play various parts, change the clothes and put the wigs on and off right there in front of the audience.  It’s such an open performance that requires not only a high level of professionalism but also an enormous amount of confidence, trust in oneself and courage. Many actors have confined at different stages of their acting careers that theatre gave them the desired opportunity to hide under an invisible mask, to become somebody else. Botox Angels is a play that requires something more than having balls, it requires having a spine to perform a piece like that, where the actors use their own names and they are literally stripped down to their birth robes while performing.

Botox Angels is a piece of extremely refreshing theatre that reminds us that underneath every script there is somebody’s story; and, there is truth that cries for being told, for being heard and finally understood. This play is about women who yearn for being heard. They are all different in all possible ways: their bodies are different, their perception of the world is different, their ability to express themselves is different; but in the end this difference is what makes them such impossibly beautiful people.

It seems like Botox Angels just has it all. Apart from the phenomenal script and great acting, the play is filled with wonderfully choreographed movements.

Botox Angles by Dood Paard is part of International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, it runs in The Teachers Club until May 7th. For more info or to book tickets, please, visit: Botox Angles at International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.

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Interview with Lindsay Sedgwick and Julie Lockey

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It’s an official 24 hour call to Lindsay Sedgwick and Julie Lockey before All Thumbs opens in the amazingly cozy International Bar on Wicklow Street, Dublin 2 tomorrow, February 29th.

In her own words, Lindsay Sedgwick did it again. After the success of her previous play Fried Eggs, Sedgwick is ready to present to the audience her new work: a love story about Lena (played by Julie Lockey), who grows her own man from a thumb that she rescued from a lab, where she works as a cleaner.

“A comedy about Romance, Rejection and Resourcefulness.”

I had a chance to sit down with Lindsay and Julie to talk about their upcoming play. Quite unique on its own, All Thumbs is performed and directed by Julie Lockey herself. This is Julie’s first experience of directing a play on a professional level. And, even though a number of directors were considered, Lindsay thought that Lockey got the essence of the play so well from the very beginning that bringing in an outside director might destroy the organic magic of it.

Apart from Lindsay and Julie, there is no technical crew working on the piece. On one side it means no exhausting tech rehearsals or illogical blocking and positionings, but on the other side: it’s entirely up to Julie and four small stage lights to make us believe in Lena’s world.

I asked Lindsay what was it that inspired her to write a story like All Thumbs.

“It goes back to when I was six or seven”, says Lindsay, “hiding under a round table in my parents’ house, watching something on TV. It was a black and white film and all I remember is that they found a finger in the woods, grew a man out of it and plug him in to recharge at night. It took me 20 years of teaching screen writing to find out what the film was. It’s Carry On Laughing. It’s not a horror at all.”

A good idea never really goes away. It takes sometimes longer sometimes shorter time to brew before starting to emerge shapes and spreading into something of its own.

According to Lindsay, when she tells others that All Thumbs is a love story, people tend to think it’s wired. But has the course of a love story ever run smoothly? No! And All Thumbs is no exception. It’s a love story with its own darkish twist.

Lindsay also reveals to me that after writing the piece she wasn’t even sure whether it was working  or not. The fact that the piece was actually very funny and had  potential only became clear after Julie did a reading of the play a couple of month ago.

Lockey, in her turn, says that when she read the play for the first time, she did not really understand what the story was about. The second reading clarified certain things a bit… and even now, when she in her final stage of rehearsals and knows the play probably better than anyone else, she says that she still finds something new in it for herself every time she goes through the lines.

Julie agrees that All Thumbs is a love story, but definitely not a traditional one. “It’s about love. About different kinds of love. It’s about unrequited love. She’s a loving person. She does things she’s doing best for him because she rescued him. He’s made the wrong decision by not looking enough at her and falling in love with her. She would be the best thing that ever happened to him”, says Julie. “She is lonely. She is scared of rejection.”

“And everybody reacts differently to rejection”, adds Lindsay.

In order to embody her character for this darkish comedy, Julie wanted to get the accent (Manchester) and the physicality right. It’s a comedy, but not a cartoon; so the character has to remain human and natural firstly and primarily inside her own self. She is crazy (and she’s good at keeping it from her co-workers) and she likes fantasizing about things.

Another challenge for the actor was to believe in what Lena is doing and why she is doing it; to make Lena’s truth truthful to the actor as well, instead of judging her and the decisions she makes.

Sometimes, the costume is as much part of a play as anything else is. Lena has a style of her own. She is very glamorous… or would have been about 20 years ago. No so much now. And Julie has a very beautiful hideous jumper, as she calls it, and a fake fringe to help her transform into Lena.

When it comes to the most challenging thing about bringing up All Thumbs, Julie says that for her it’s definitely directing the piece she is in. She is ready to take upon herself the full responsibility for it. But something is telling me that she won’t have to, because the piece sounds like an absolute cracker and Julie, having had previous experience in comedy, knows what she’s doing.

For Lindsay it’s the fact that she’s actually written a comedy. And it’s the first time she  produced a piece that revolves around one single incident rather than a whole lifetime of the character. The structure of this piece differs, too. “It’s more like a monologue”, Lindsay says “with her (Lena) dipping in and out of her fantasies.”

“But that’s how women talk”, jumps in Julie. You start with a joke, then you remember  something else and talk about it for a while, then the train of thought brings you somewhere else and then, by the end of the piece, you finally go back to the joke you started with.

I ask if the piece has always been intended as a one-woman show. Originally being written as a short audition piece, Lindsay says that, even though “the man” is there, bringing an actual actor to play the part wouldn’t work. He is a sort of Lena’s fantasy and putting somebody’s face on it might completely destroy the illusion. That’s the brilliance of writing sometimes, with the same characteristics for off-stage characters everybody gets to have a hero or heroine suited to their own liking and created by the power of their own imagination.

Opening on Monday with the first show, Julie is ready to embrace a preview-free run. She says that to her it’s not going to make any difference, she wants to be equally good every single night and give a 100% performance.

#WakingTheFeminists and all of you supporting equality out there will be happy to know that All Thumbs is a play that is being brought up by an all-female team of theatre makers: from the writer, Lindsay Sedgwick, to the performer/director Julie Lockey, to production assistant Tamar Keane, to Graphic Designer Pamela Lockey and the photographer Barbara Henkes.

2 weeks – 20 shows. All Thumbs runs in Dublin’s International Bar on Wicklow Street from February 29th till March 12th. For more info or to book tickets, please, contact: allthumbsplay@gmail.com or visit: http://www.international-bar.com/2016/02/25/all-thumbs-by-moonstone-productions/ 

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Filed under All Thumbs, Interview with, Lindsay Jane Sedgwick, Meet the creators of, Waking The Feminists

Happy Birthday The Abbey Theatre!

I couldn’t think of a better day to write the last post of the year! Today my dear Abbey Theatre is celebrating its 111th Birthday! And I have to say that my theatremania started with in that very place, The Abbey, in 2010 when I went to see G B Shaw’s Pygmalion directed by Annabelle Comyn; and ever since that day (I saw Pygmalion twice, I liked it so much) the very word theatre has adapted a completely different meaning for me. I can even say it was life-changing experience for me.

In the last two and a half years I haven’t missed a single performance in The Abbey and happy to say that the absolute majority of them were of a very high standard (I don’t care who says what!). When I go to see a play, I don’t go to judge it, I go to enjoy it and to share it with my fellow theatre goers.

We’ve had out little moment with the Abbey this year. Being a fiery supporter of #WakingThe Feminists movement, I must say that just like many other theatre folks, I was saddened by the Abbey’s programme for the upcoming year but am remaining very hopeful that the directing panel have learnt their lesson and the new productions in our National Theatre will represent the whole diversity of the beautiful voices of Ireland.

I’m happy to say that I was in The Abbey when “Vote Yes” campaign took place earlier this year and I was there on the 12th of November. I was there when Waking The Nation programme was announced (twice) and I was there for the Theatre of Memory Symposium last year and for this year’s Theatre of War Symposium. Two and a half years after, I can not imagine my life without being able to visit my national theatre on a regular basis!

Happy 111th Abbey! You don’t look a day older than 18! I don’t drink, but if I did I would raise a glass in your honour tonight. Here, to many many more years of high quality theatre!

And the freak I am, I am indeed looking forward to celebrating the end of the year with you and with the highly anticapated performance of You Never Can Tell.

2015 has been a very interesting and, more importantly, productive year for me. First of all, this very blog isn’t even a year old yet and I already couldn’t be happier with it. I don’t want to brag or anything, but something that was born purely out of my passion for Irish theatre has become so much more. If it wasn’t for Unforgettable Lines, I would not have been able to meet all those extremely talented and creative theatre companies and theatre makers. Each and every  single interview was very special to me! It’s amazing how a play can affect and inspire, but it’s even more amazing finding out how professional, creative and so endlessly talented are the people who make it all happen.

With 85 plays and theatre events under my belt plus all the interviews and theatre talks and tours… I can safely say it has been quite a year! A very enjoyable one, as well, of course!

I wouldn’t possibly be able to single out five or even ten productions that would highlight 2015 for me. Every single play I saw this year has left its little something in my heart.

A huge thank you to Theatre Upstairs that has allowed me to see all the amazing new work that has been staged in their cozy space above the Lanigans Pub. It’s a real gem for the emerging Irish artists.

And another thank you to all the artists and theatre companies that have invited me to review their plays. I have never doubted it but it was so wonderful to, yet once more, realise how big and rich on talents Irish artists are!

Now I’m looking forward to the new 2016 and with all the theatre-going experience behind me, I hope I’ll be able to crack the 100 plays in a year (which is not a challenge but a wish!) and hopefully my passion for theatre will bring me outside of Dublin to new locations, new theatres and new creative spaces!

The Abbey wants to wake the Nation for 2016, I already can say: I am wide awake and ready for a year filled with theatre, arts and creativity!

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#WakingTheFeminists

Just back from #WakingTheFeminists meeting at The Abbey.

I’m trying to think of words that could describe the emotion and the energy charge that was created in The Abbey’s Auditorium this afternoon… and there are simply no words big or explicit enough.

My passion for theatre started in The Abbey more than five years ago. If it wasn’t for that theatre, I wouldn’t be where I am now. And even though, I do not have an Irish passport I consider it my National Theatre. In the last three years I barely missed a play in The Abbey. For the last two and a half years I was also a member of the Abbey. I was there when Waking The Nation programme was announced.

I’m not going to lie, I liked the programme. And to my shame, it has never even occurred to me to count how many plays were written/directed by women. I’m very glad that Lian Bell did it for me and for all of us. And I’m also very glad and thankful that she brought attention to the problem. It was a very brave and courageous move. It was also a push that we all needed.

Lian might have been the first to vocalise the truth. But she is not alone. Not anymore. There are hundreds and thousands of both women and men out there waiting, yearning for gender equality. And today’s meeting was just another proof of it! The Abbey’s main space has slightly under 500 seats… for all I know, the event was sold out in less than half an hour after the tickets became available, and today there were more than a hundred on the wait list queueing outside hoping to get in. On a Thursday afternoon, all those people from all around the country and abroad came to The Abbey to support the gender equality. They didn’t come to see a show; they didn’t come to a catch a freebie; they came to show their support and respect for their fellow theatre artists. They came because it mattered. It mattered to show that regardless of your gender, profession or nationality you recognise the huge gender imbalance and flow in the system that supports and encourages the imbalance. It mattered because, just like some six month earlier, our future (and that of our children) depended on here and now. 2016 is a very important year in the Irish history. Let’s not forget that the history was written by both men and women. So why a hundred years after we shall forget about it?

As I said at the beginning, I have no words to express my feelings right now. I’ve been in a super hyper active cycle ever since I found out I got a ticket for the meeting today. I still can’t believe that it happened. I want to thank all the amazing actors, directors, playwrights and theatre makers who spoke on and off The Abbey stage today. Each one of the speeches was incredibly powerful and important to hear. I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to have an opinion and to express that opinion. Even though the problem of gender inequality has existed in the Irish society for a good while now, it’s great that women finally started speaking out (and look at all the brave and beautiful voices they have!). Every single word spoken in The Abbey today has indeed travelled. And not only in space, but also in time. For, hopefully, years and generations after today will be seen as a day that did make a difference. I strongly believe in the importance of vocalisation of your thoughts and opinions. If it’s not said out loud, it can’t exist. And women were kept in silence for way too long.

As a theatre lover, maker, goer, critic… myself, I strongly believe in female voices and stories. That’s a side of life we all want and need to hear (for once!). People say, it’s 2015, it’s time… I say, it’s been time for the last 2015 years and beyond. Our society has shackled and put limitation on us, women; with years those invisible chains grew only bigger and heavier. But a woman isn’t a small and helpless creature… A woman, any woman, is a true warrior. And it’s time to shake off those chains to finally free out voices.

The Abbey wants to wake the nation. Well, we are wide awake and ready and there’s not a single thing that will stop us now.

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