Review – Summertime

Filmbase

Dublin Fringe Festival

21/09/18

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Summertime is only 15 minutes long. Hardly long enough to get an insight into the nuances and changes in a relationship, you would think, but that is not the case. James Elliot’s layered script tells an intensely human story that reminds us how things can seem to turn on a word. Though, as we soon realise, it is never really just a word.

A live sound installation, Summertime is performed by Danielle Galligan and Finbar Doyle, whose lines are heard through headphones, though the performers are moving amongst the audience in the room. Initially the use of headphones felt like it might be a gimmick, but as the two characters voices come into your head in stereo, and the live performances blend with pre-recorded internal monologues, the depth of the idea becomes clear.

Stash is an artist who works in a bar, and Steve is her boyfriend. The story follows them as they drift apart, fighting but not fighting, each not sure how to communicate to the other. As the audience hears the unsaid that could solve the rift between the couple, we realise how painfully simply this not-quite-a-fight could have been avoided by simply talking openly.

Making clever use of sound and setting, Summertime is a beautiful reminder of the power of honesty and openness.

Review -Big Trouble in Little Monkey’s Daycare

The Space on the Mile

06/08/18

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Something is not right at Little Monkey’s Daycare, and little Tommy, a four-and-a-half year old private investigator, is going to get to the bottom of it. This production from Newcastle University Theatre Society is a sort of backwards Bugsy Malone with the toddlers played by adults, to great comic effect. The writing and performances play to all of the classic tropes; as the characters chew on their candy cigarettes, nurse their Angel Delight hangovers and deal in curly straws, an hilarious twist on the classic gangster story is established. As Tommy and his sidekick Bobby investigate why their classmates are vanishing with a mystery illness, there are comic moments for both children and adults in the audience alike.

The production has an air of the rough and ready about it, but that often add to the humour in the piece rather than detracting from it. Similarly, the dubious, hammed-up New Yoihk accents provide many laughs, though lines are sometimes lost to them. Overall the performances are mixed, with some portraying the toddler gangsters adeptly, with sharp comic timing, and others over-acting theirs. The way in which the children are portrayed, combined with the references to old gangster films, raises the question of who the production is aimed at. Though it is billed as being suitable for all ages, and there are comic moments that would appeal to both adults and children, Big Trouble at Little Monkey’s Daycare seems more like a play about children for adults than a piece of theatre for children.

Big Trouble at Little Monkey’s Daycare is an unpolished but entertaining story of choc-ice crime and chickenpox.

It Lives‽

The dissertation is done, the essays are written, and the post-university existential crisis has been neatly swept under the carpet. That can only mean one thing. Yes, Sitting on the Fourth Wall has awakened from its lengthy slumber, and I am returning to seeing a mildly ridiculous number of plays.

Where better to kick that into action, than at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? I write this, sitting on my bed in the Network of Independent Critics flat, readying myself for a whirlwind week. So come and join me as I resurrect this blog with as many reviews of work for children and families (alongside a few grown-ups shows) as I can fit in for the next six days of Fringe madness.

Now, let’s see if I can remember what a review is.

Radio Silence

My dear readers,

You may have noticed that this blog has become quite quiet recently. As some of you might know, I’m finishing up university in the next couple of months, and as such I am wading through work on a dissertation and numerous other assignments. In order to give this work the attention it deserves, I will not be taking bookings to review work until after I have submitted my dissertation.

As much as I attempted to pretend that reviewing was definitely research for my dissertation, which is on the development of theatre criticism from print to online publication, it unfortunately doesn’t count.  It kills me to turn down bookings for the fascinating work that is going on at the moment, but hopefully I’ll get something interesting written that I might share (a condensed version of) once I’m done.

Apologies to anyone whose press invites I have had to turn down. I look forward to returning to normal service once I have finished at the end of April!

I’ll catch you on the fourth wall soon.

Glowworm – Review

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

Project Arts Centre

Tiger Dublin Fringe

11/09/16

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Zelle De Brulle is different, she knows that, and for the most part she is happy as she is. She contentedly catches and studies her insects, follows in the footsteps of her eccentric uncle William Charles Bugboy De Brulle, and is rarely ever noticed by her Oxborough schoolmates. However one evening, upon catching a glow-worm in the Oxborough gardens, Zelle is reminded of part herself that she had forgotten or pushed away and a new realm of discovery is opened to her.

In the charming setting of William Charles Bugboy De Brulle’s laboratory (brilliantly created under production designer Hannah Bowe) the three actors, Julie Maguire, Conor O’Riordan and Maria Guliver, adeptly bring a host of vibrant characters to life as they try to understand why Zelle does not put the Glowworm in “the killing jar” and pin it to her corkboard like all of her other specimens. As they do so, the audience is guided through Zelle’s experiences of growing up in a reserved Victorian household, her friendship with her uncle, her solitary schooldays, a bizarre encounter in an elderflower thicket, and the other joys and difficulties she found in growing up.

Through a miscellany of music, puppetry and storytelling, this delightful piece is perfectly paced and well-rounded. Kellegher’s sharp, insightful direction provides a balance between sweetness and satire that places this as a family show, neither just for adults, nor just for children.  Also deserving of praise is Dylan Tonge Jones’ composition and sound design, which he performs live during the show. It is not just music, it is a whole layer to the story-telling with every quick musical reaction conveying as much information and emotion as a whole other character could.

Glowworm is a charming, multi-faceted production that blends insightful storytelling with beautiful design to create a true theatrical delight.

Glowworm runs in Project Arts Centre until September 17th.

Risk – Review

New Theatre

Tiger Dublin Fringe

16/09/16

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Risk is risk and consequences are consequences. Two sisters, one criminal empire – and a few obstacles in their way lead to a tale of intrigue, family ties and a whole lot of murder.

Written and directed by Diane Crotty, Risk tells the story of two sisters, Frankie (Lisa Tyrell) and Aggie (Susan Barrett) who must work together to face the gangs of London to save their father’s kingdom after his death.  Both Tyrell and Bennett deliver engaging performances, each performance complimenting the other and creating a natural sibling dynamic.

Crotty’s script is a well-woven, classic gangster story with a contemporary tone. Both characters have a strong personal stamp which is established within moments of each beginning to speak. There are some lulls in the pacing of the piece, which loses some of the sense of excitement that is built up. However, overall it is an entertaining and sharply constructed script.

Working with a simple set, the direction of the piece is inventive and smart in its use of movement and spacing to aid the sometimes quite cinematic cuts from scene to scene. This is further complimented by Colm Horan’s simple but effective lighting design.

Overall Risk is an entertaining and sharp production that will take you on an exciting hunt through the world of London’s 1960s gangsters.

Risk runs at the New Theatre until September 24th.

Cuncrete – Review

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

Smock Alley Theatre Black Box

Tiger Dublin Fringe

10/9/16

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Presented by Rachel Clerke and the Great White Males, Cuncrete is a production with an interesting germ of an idea. Using concrete as a metaphor,  Clerke and the band create a drag-king punk gig exploring capitalism, hegemonic masculinity and the strong ties between the two. However, there is too little exploring for Cuncrete to develop from a good idea to a good production.

The tone and pacing for the piece is set from its opening section; a long, repetitive musical build up to the entrance of Clerke. The production maintains a slow drawling pace, setting up the idea of what they describe as a “dysto-utopia” and introducing the Great White Males. This could have been forgivable had there been a development of the ideas through the show, but once Clerke and The Great White Males had laid out their premise in their opening number (which was reprised in an uncalled for encore) they simply went on to repeat and re-iterate that in their subsequent songs. There are moments of amusing satire, such as in the descriptions of the band members, but even then they rely on reductive and stereotypical character types. Similarly there are some strong images, but they are often tempered by weaker ones (there are only so many times the image of a rich person snorting cocaine, or a symbolic substitute, can be edgy) Throughout, this feels like a production that could go somewhere, but always leads to an anticlimax.

Cuncrete is a 55 minute show that is 45 minutes too long. Had the original idea evolved, it could have been an engaging and sharp production, but as it stands it is an over-simplified and under-developed piece.

Cuncrete runs in Smock Alley Theatre until September 13th.

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