Tag Archives: #wakingthefeminists

The Abbey Theatre: Anna Karenina

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“Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed. ”

– Anna Karenina

2016 has been a huge year for the arts. 2016 was anything but a challenging year for the Abbey Theatre in particular, a year filled with the most unexpected, brave decisions and thought-provoking plays. In addition to seeing one year round up of #WakingTheFeminists meeting; Ireland’s National Theatre has also had a change of directors welcoming Neil Murray and Graham McLaren to the steering wheel.

The last play of the departing year is none the less but Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, adapted for the stage by Ireland’s very own literature giant Marina Carr.

No doubt, Tolsoty’s masterpiece is a poignant, heavy piece in all senses possible. Starting with the fact that the play lasts approximately three and a half hours (which then pass by quicker than a fly). But above all, it’s a Russian tragedy where, unfortunately, there is no place for a happy ending.

Anna Karenina (played by Lisa Dwan) is a wife, a mother and a woman, who one day falls in love with Vronsky (played by Rory Fleck Byrne), a well-built handsome young man. Tolstoy has never created a weak woman in his work and Karenina isn’t an exception, either. But just as any human being isn’t safe of making mistakes, she gives in to temptation and finally decides to leave not only her husband but also her son Seryoza and the respected position she occupies among the Russian intelligentsia. She looses everything for a chance to live maybe not a happy but an emotionally fulfilled life. Nevertheless, happiness does come but only for a short time before Anna realises that some things can never be replaced or substituted in life; that people remember it when you did them wrong; that people betray, lie and simply get tired of what once excited them; that some of the most tender souls hide behind the thickest walls; that no heart is made out of stone and every heart breaks in its own way.

This absolutely stunning interpretation of a Russian classic is a truly jaw-dropping piece to watch. It should definitely be placed among the strongest pieces produced by the Abbey last year. Unsurprisingly brilliantly directed  by Wayne Jordan, the play transports us to pre-revolutionary Russia where the  freshly spilled blood is an ever constant contrast to the peacefully falling snow. In a very simple but wonderfully decorated set (by Sarah Bacon) we witness the lives, loves and tragedies of a grand total of 42 characters. Dressed in some of the most eye-catching ribbons and bows (by Sarah Beacon),the piece presents to our display a whole range of mothers, daughters and wives and their everyday struggle. From Dolly (played by Ruth McGill), who perhaps doesn’t even remember what it feels like not to be pregnant and who also is living a tragedy as she has a cheating husband, to Kitty (played by Julie Maguire) a young girl who is only preparing to enter wifehood.

In one single play, we are given the incredible opportunity to see the same problems being dealt with by different people and from alternative angles. With beautifully stylised musical accompaniment (by David Coonan), the cruel Russian reality ideally translates to the Irish stage. Anna Karenina has it all: tragedy with elements of comedy, very nice pace for a long piece, stunning decorations and costumes and some absolutely superb acting. The cast, the majority of whom double and triple, truly gives a performance of a lifetime with each single one of the ensemble being exceptional.

Anna Karenina is a beautiful experience that won’t leave a dry eye. The play runs in The Abbey Theatre until January 28th. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/anna-karenina/

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Teachers’ Club: The Boy with the Halogyn Hair

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“Love plus drugs equals heaven.”

One. Two. Three. The lights go down. And we are back to the universe of Franner and Joey. Remember the two crack heads pumping themselves up on a rooftop with a view of Dublin North inner city?

Now we might as well place our feet down onto the solid ground and visit one of the inhabitants of that infamous building. Paula (played by Ericka Roe) used to be a good girl, who did well in school and loved and respected her parents. But shortly after turning eighteen she met a boy, a boy with the halogyn hair who turned her world upside down. But Duggo, an irresistibly attractive crack head with what seemed like years of experience in drug abuse, wasn’t only a bad influence on her. Apart from introducing her to drugs (starting with no more no less but heroin) and almost getting her involved in prostitution, the boy also physically abused Paula and from time to time would lock her in the apartment. But now, two years after, would Paula be able to break free from her addictive unhealthy obsession? Is the will strong enough?

The Boy with the Halogyn Hair is written by Eddie Naughton and directed by Kieran McDonnell, two men who must know inside out the dark world that they once created. Comparing this piece to Franner and Joey, both works have a very similar setting and even the general feeling to it but differ on a somewhat deeper subliminal level. Both plays excel at creating a sense of a freshly fleshed out worlds with real and vivid characters inhabiting it.

Being an almost seventy minute monologue, the play has a bit of a twist at the end, which shakes things up quite nicely and adds some action to an otherwise calm narration filled mainly with memories, emotions and heroin’s self-persuasion of doing the right thing.

The lighting and the set design showed an interesting gradual degradation of the main character (who is bit by bit picking up her life from the floor) throughout the play with the very last scene being the strongest one of all both visually and plot-wise. The purely stylistic effect that bright red light produces in the total darkness is a very powerful tool. It creates a sense of character being bit by bit swollen up by the demons of hell when a drug hits the vein.

An image of Dublin as many might know and have even experienced it. A female view to the mostly manly world. Paula’s story of making all the wrong decisions and having to face the consequences. The Boy with The Halogyn Hair, a poisonous story of a drug abuse reality, is a product by Little Shadow Theatre Company. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/146993262438490/

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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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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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The Smock Alley Theatre: Fleabag

Two years after its premier at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bad Mouth Theatre‘s play Fleabag finally found its way onto the stage of Smock Alley’s The Boy’s School.

Fleabag is a one woman show, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and performed by Hannah O’Reilly. In the intimate and welcoming place The Boy’s School is, the play starts big and promising: the female character comes down onto the stage drunk … falling off the stairs, singing, drinking… in other words, not being very stable. Obviously, having just left a wild party, she strips down to her underwear in front of the audience and changes into something less attention-seeking and more normal daily-life appropriate. Not having slept a wink, she is off to a job interview.

As the play unravels we find out that our heroine works in a guinea pig themed cafe (with a real guinea pig living there), which she used to co – own. She is in huge debt after the other co-owner and her dear friend tragically died. Our nameless heroine has a sister who doesn’t really want to talk to her anymore, and a father who would rather call a cab to take his drunk daughter home in the middle of the night than let her stay on the couch at his place.

In between all this mess, she finds the time to flirt, sex text, chat up and either have sex or dream of having sex with every moving object she comes across. Some might call it an addiction, I think a twenty something Londoner, who has just lost a good friend and struggles to find any understanding, is simply substituting love with sex.

Waller-Bridge’s play points at the elephant in the room. It’s been barely a month since The Abbey’s meeting of #WakingThe Feminists and it’s really a miracle that we can see a woman on stage talking openly about her sex life. Isn’t she being judged? Of course she is. Even within the context of the play itself. The S word does come out a couple of times throughout the play. But the important thing is that the play is there and it’s bold, it has courage and strength, and it’s made by women and about women.

O’Reilly’s acting is quite strong and natural, but some of the jokes, even though delivered perfectly fine, just fall flat; they mostly provoke a weak smile rather than an out loud laugh. Even though the over all performance works pretty well and is capturing to watch, O’Reilly’s stumbling over some words and phrases unfortunately destroyed the illusion at times.

I quite liked some of the lighting decisions. But the set design could have done with a bit more than just a chair. The action takes place in many different locations, the lighting could have been a bit more elaborated to help us feel the difference between spaces.

Creating other characters by using voices on the speakers was an interesting decision, but I think it might have worked a tiny bit better if the actress on stage embodies those characters. It wouldn’t distract our full attention from the main action.

For one weekend only in Dublin, Fleabag has closed tonight in the Smock Alley Theatre. More details about the show could be found: https://www.facebook.com/badmouththeatre/?fref=ts

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