The Shadow of a Gunman – Review

Abbey Theatre

Dir: Wayne Jordan



To me, Sean O’Casey is a literary magician. Everything about his writing from his naturally poetic language and sharp social and political insights, to his shrewdly realistic characters and perfectly paced action make O’Casey one of my favourite playwrights.That declared,I can move on to this particular production which I can safely say went far beyond simply doing justice to O’Casey’s writing.

It is a difficult balance to pull-off, but the entire cast, and every element of the design in the show managed to walk that line between humour and horror, laughter and tension. Bringing the show truly to life, this balance kept the characters down to earth, engaging the audience as they find life’s everyday humour even in such times of danger and tragedy.

The lighting design by Sarah-Jane Sheils subtly keeps pace with the action, with some striking moments which highlight perfectly the underlying tension in the play. This light falls on an understated, yet complete and effective patchwork of a set designed by Sarah Bacon which captures that essential marriage of comedy and tragedy that makes this play what it is.

Inhabiting this design is the cast, whose performances all compliment each other and come together to create a strikingly real world upon the stage. The stand-out performance however, was without a doubt  Mark O’Halloran’s as Donal Davoren. From the moment the curtain went up, O’Halloran did not simply stand on the stage, he possessed it, even when silent or still.  O’Halloran’s performance was commanding and compelling, bringing the Davoren vividly to life.

Wayne Jordan’s The Shadow of a Gunman is a dynamic and potent production that draws its audience into the lives, hearts and minds of these inhabitants of this 1920s Dublin tenement with passion and perspicacity.

The Shadow of a Gunman runs until the 1st of August.



As any theatre lovers on twitter probably know, it’s Love Theatre Day (or perhaps more properly #LoveTheatreDay!). Today is a day in which we appreciate theatre in all of its forms, promote theatre, explore the industry and reach out to new and old audiences and practitioners alike. I’ll be spending the day in Modernism lectures learning about Dadaism and Surrealism, presenting a performance based on a dream and watching my classmates performances, attending a committee run of a DU Players show that I am operating, working on an essay on gender and power in A Doll’s House and Medea, and writing a review of the Abbey Theatre’s Production of Sive (Which I will post here in the near future, so keep an eye out for that!).

What about you? Are you seeing any performances, working on any productions or getting involved in theatre in any way today? Whatever you are doing, you can follow all of the #LoveTheatreDay events and goings on by following the three hashtags: #BackStage, #AskATheatre, and #Showtime. I’d love to know how you are spending the day or what you think of the initiative so please comment below and share your thoughts!

Review – “Our Few and Evil Days”

“Our Few and Evil Days”
Abbey Theatre


“It will rip something inside you and stitch it back together, but not in the same way, snatch your breath.”

This was the reaction a friend gave when I tweeted that I would be seeing the Abbey Theatre’s production of “Our Few and Evil Days” written and directed by Mark O’Rowe, and she was right. This was a stunning production that indeed snatched my breath, inhabited every part of my mind, made me both laugh and cry, and left me reeling as I left the auditorium. There are few shows that have that powerful pause between the final blackout and the applause as the audience absorbs what they just experienced and readjust to real life, but this was one of them.

The combination of O’Rowe’s skilled writing and the powerful performances delivered onstage, particularly by Ciarán Hinds and Sinead Cusack, made this piece an exciting, amusing and heart-wrenching experience. Every part of the performances and writing played a part in building the story of this family. The nuances, tone and progression of every conversation were intensely realistic, with each interruption and pause timed and delivered exactly, but with a powerfully natural feel. This was further complimented by the small devices in characterization, such as Hinds’ regular exclamations of “Jesus!” and Cusack’s slow, almost tired speech which portrayed important parts of the characters and story on an almost unconscious level.

These performances were strengthened by the excellent design of the stage and lighting. Particularly effective were the blackouts at the ends of scenes which served to build tension and to leave things unsaid that were more potent in their absence than if they had been said. These blackouts were especially effective when contrasted with the well designed, realistic lighting throughout the rest of the production.

Finally, I wish to comment on one particular moment which was not central to the plot and could in fact have easily gone unnoticed; I don’t even know if it was intentional. At this point in the play, Hinds’ character was standing at the kitchen sink which had a window above it when the rumble of the Luas passing made its way into the auditorium. Rather than just ignoring it, as is usually done, Hinds’ briefly looked out of the window, as if to acknowledge the passing of the Luas. My pet hate with the Abbey is the sound of the Luas reverberating through the auditorium, breaking the atmosphere momentarily so I absolutely loved this incorporation of it into the production. Whether purposely timed to coincide with the Luas, or just a fortuitous coincidence, this was a gem of a moment.

It may seem that I gave a disproportionately large amount of text to that particular moment, but it is significant as it is an example of the many small but powerful devices used within the production that gave it its overall strength and impact. Every aspect of the production combined perfectly to create a visually stunning, emotionally striking and utterly incredible theatrical experience.

Review – what happens to the hope at the end of the evening

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Peacock Theatre.

Dublin Theatre Festival 4/10/2014

This gem of a piece directed by Karl James and performed by Tim Crouch and Andy Smith was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. From the moment Smith walked through the auditorium, sat in his chair and began to speak, I knew I was going to enjoy the show.

Telling the story of an evening between two long time friends who have been apart for some years, the piece examines the changes in each of their lives, the changes in their friendship and in the way they communicate. In doing this, light is also thrown on how we communicate, on how we are present in a space with other people. This was an interesting idea told through a compelling story.

Crouch and Smith delivered top-notch performances. Smith moved between narration and acing out scenes seamlessly and Crouch brought the character of his friend who has lost direction, who hasn’t moved on like Smith’s character, to life with expertise. The two actors bring the characters credibly to life while still maintaining interesting stylistic techniques such as talking to and looking out towards the audience and only rarely looking at each other. These devices are very effectively used to convey the traits of each character; Crouch’s character in his own world, looking beyond the audience and Smith’s more settled, talking to the audience and acting as a bridge between the characters and audience.

The tale of these men’s friendship, of the evening they spend together and the many past spent is further reinforced by moments such as those when Smith asks the audience to shake hands with each other and asks them to take off their shoes. As well as drawing the audience further into the story, these features served to strengthen the ideas of presence and togetherness that were central to the piece.

In terms of design this was a simple piece. However, the fully lit set changes carried out by Crouch were, like every other aspect of the piece, very effective in maintaining and developing the tone of the piece. They meant that the audience was never torn out of the story by a blackout; there was a flow to the piece that gave it a very natural feel despite the unnatural devices such as the positioning of the actors’ gazes.

In short, this piece was a powerful and compelling yet comfortable piece of theatre that drew the audience in from the start and delivered a captivating narrative with startlingly real characters and a potent message.

Review – “The Risen People”


The Abbey Theatre
4th January 2014

I, like many others, studied the 1913 Strike and Lockout in school, I know the history of it, the facts, the figure, but never before has it been more alive in my mind than as I watched the Abbey Theatre’s production of “The Risen People” by James Plunkett, directed by Jimmy Fay.
A moving and engaging piece of theatre, “The Risen People” brings the harsh reality of the lockout to life, reminds us of the day to day difficulties of the families involved and draws the audience into the world of Dublin in 1913. Every aspect of the production added to the atmosphere and drew the audience further into the story. The incredible musical numbers, directed by Conor Linehan are, in my opinion, some of the best I have ever seen. Some serve to convey the raw suffering of the people, some show the dissatisfaction that sparked the rising and some, such as “The Internationale” serve to rouse the spirits of the audience and give them a taste of the pride and drive that led the workers to stand up for their rights. The shadowy, cold lighting and sparse set are beautifully designed to give the audience a sense of the poverty and hardship felt by the workers. These, when combined with the excellent acting performances, particularly by the female characters, played by Hilda Fay, Charlotte McCurry and Kate Stanley Brennan, make for a truly breathtaking production. The cherry on top, which really brings the production into the here and now, is the Noble Call in which each night, a well known figure is invited to give their opinions on the production and share the message they gained from it through words, art or music.
I can promise you that from the striking opening sequence through the stirring story, as the houses are emptied and the pawn shop is filled, to the final line, your eyes will be riveted to the stage and you will feel every emotion of every character. You will live the lockout.