Review – Dinner in Mulberry Street

Bewley’s Café Theatre


j o'neill, a dorrell, f roggio in mulberry 3-1

Image: Futoshi Sakauchi

A Christmas show in Bewley’s is always a treat, even without the pre-show mince pie and coffee I enjoyed beside the fire yesterday. Adapted by Michael James Ford and directed by Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, this year’s Christmas production of Dinner in Mulberry Street tells the story of a young couple, Agnes and Dick Burdoon, who have fallen on hard times and find themselves living on Mulberry Street with a dying fire, hungry bellies, and little else. However, when Dick sells one of their last possessions, they are greeted with a stroke of luck that changes the course of their story.

Ford’s play is based on Fitz-James O’Brien’s 1881 short story Duke Humphrey’s Dinner, and is quite a faithful adaptation; one character is changed, but the overall shape of the story remains the same. Though it is a charming and entertaining story both on the page and the stage, the adaptation may have been wise to stray a little further from the shape of the short story. The lack of action or plot development in the early portions of the short story, and the sudden resolution of events in the final few pages mean that the pacing of the plot is uneven for the stage.

However, the issues of plot and pacing fade as Ashleigh Dorrell and Jamie O’Neill revel in the language of the earlier parts of the play under Ni Chaoimh’s strong direction – though there is little action per se, they bring energy and character to every word as they lament their situation and describe the sumptuous meals they wish they were eating. This is accentuated by Nicola Burke’s costume design which captures perfectly the fall from splendour Dick and Agnes have experienced.

From a seduction via cheese-board to fisticuffs between Fabiano Roggio’s effusive and eccentric Giacomo and O’Neill’s Dick Burdoon, Dinner in Mulberry Street is a play that never takes itself too seriously, and in doing so provides a fun, diverting Christmas show which (despite the Burdoon’s lack of coal), promises warmth and laughter throughout.


Dinner In Mulberry Street runs at Bewley’s Café Theatre until December 22nd.

Review – An Elephant in the Garden

Dairy Room – Underbelly Bristo Square



Based on Michael Morpurgo’s 2009 novel of the same name, An Elephant in the Garden is an enchanting and moving one-woman show, performed by Alison Reid. Set around the 1945 Dresden bombing, this production tells the story of our narrator, Lizzie, as she embarks on the long walk from Dresden to seek refuge with American troops with her mother, and Marlene, an elephant.

Perhaps I should explain the elephant before I continue? Marlene (named after Marlene Dietrich) was in Dresden Zoo where Lizzie’s mother worked and, when the bombings happened, was to be shot along with all of the other animals to prevent them from running wild across the city. Rather than let that happen, Lizzie’s mother adopts the elephant and brings her to live in their back garden, and so we find ourselves with a steady stalwart elephant friend who plods through the story, acting as its spine, drawing the characters forward alongside her, and provides a memorable metaphor for persistence, care and humanity.

An Elephant in the Garden is, at face value, a beautiful feat of storytelling, but as we get further into the story another important note shines through.  As Lizzie’s uncle argues in support of the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, it is difficult to avoid the parallels to some of the arguments of the 21st Century far-right. Similarly, as Lizzie discusses their journey, the portions of it that they make with other people, he shelter they find in the house of the countess, their six month spent in a ‘Camp for Displaced People,’ it is impossible not to think of the people still making life-threatening journeys in search of refuge, of the people in the camps in Calais, of those in direct provision in Ireland. People are still in these impossibly difficult situations.  Though the play does not directly allude to any contemporary parallels, the opportunity is there, to learn from the past and find the strength of compassion needed to stop these things continuing to happen another 70-odd years from now.

An Elephant in the Garden is a beautifully performed story that looks back to the past, but in doing so provides an insight into the present.

An Elephant in the Garden runs at Underbelly Bristo Square until 27th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Alice in Wonderland – Edinburgh Fringe Review

Not Cricket Productions

Underbelly – White Belly



Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been the subject of more adaptations than I could count, with four shows based on it in this year’s Fringe programme alone.  As a novel bathed in nonsense, fantasy and imagination, it provides myriad opportunities to explore new ways of staging it and bringing the madcap tea party, the sneezing duchess and her porcine child, the mock turtle, and the Queen of Hearts’ infamous croquet game to life. Adapted and directed by Kate Stephenson, Not Cricket Productions’ approach is a fairly traditional one, taking in most of the main parts of the story and presenting them in a recognisable manner, with Alice’s blue dress, the white rabbit’s waistcoat and the Cheshire cat’s lingering grin. However, taking this faithful approach with only an hour long show does lead to a production that feels rushed and underdeveloped.

From the very start, the direction and performance of the piece seems frantic and hurried; a whistle-stop tour of the plot. The rapid leaps from scene to scene, without any of them truly having the chance to develop, mean that the audience is left to fill in gaps or expand on brief exposition. While this is possible (though not ideal) for an older audience member who may know the story, for the young audience it is aimed at it could be confusing, and leave a patchy impression of a classic story. This frenetic pacing is exacerbated by performances that begin and remain at a high, overwrought level that not only unbalances the emotional energy of the piece, but results in lines being lost in the speed of their delivery.

Fitting in with Carroll’s vivid and varied childlike world, the costume and prop designs were, though simple and makeshift (with pink umbrellas as flamingos, an old bathtub as the mock turtle’s shell, and some lanterns to denote the Cheshire Cat), effective in conveying the idea of a child’s imaginative world. Taken on its own, this is a strong point of the production, but added to the direction and performances as described before, there were certain points at which the combination gave the show a disjointed air.

Overall this production tries to do too much and overstretches, including introducing musical numbers that fall flat, audience interaction that distracts by overlapping with onstage action, and aesthetic ideas that are not followed through on. Though it presents interesting and promising ideas, Alice in Wonderland feels like a production that has been put on stage while still in a workshop state.

Alice in Wonderland runs at Underbelly, Cowgate, until 27th August.