The Boys – Review

Smock Alley



Written by Michael Harnett and directed by Patrick Sutton, The Boys tells the story of a group of teenage boys (or perhaps more appropriately, a gang of lads) from Drumcondra and the events of their Inter-cert year, 1967. Following the ups and downs of the year for each of the four boys, this play hits the highs with an infectiously heady optimism and hilarity and the lows with an equally catching poignancy and pain.

The four actors, all recent graduates from the Gaiety School of Acting, handle their roles with skill and energy, with both Killian Coyle as Hackett and Shane O’Regan as Brennan delivering particularly impressive performances. Each actor has a primary role of one of the boys but all take on the guises of parents, girlfriends and many other supporting characters when their anecdotes demand it.  With only small changes of costume, a wig here, a hat there, and simple changes of posture and voice the cast portrayed all of the characters of the boys’ Drumcondra of 1967 with clarity and vitality (with O’Regan’s caricature of the Belvedere College secretary being a comic highlight!)

The script was well composed, capturing the distinctly youthful manner of speech of the boys (I know, I’m not too far from their age myself!) as well as the phrases and nuances of the Drumcondra accent. The transitions from levity to seriousness were also very cleverly written, always flowing naturally, catching the audience in a moment between laughter and tears.

The Boys is a recognisable, sometimes all-too real, tale of growing up, with all of its antics, heartaches and changes that will have a laugh and a tear competing in your throat.

Review: Pals-The Irish at Gallipoli

Anu Productions

National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks



I have been in Collins Barracks lots of times, I know quite a bit about the First World War, I know the grim realities of conflict that shattered the heroic illusions of many young soldiers, but never have these things been more alive, or more striking in my mind than as I watched Pals- The Irish at Gallipoli this afternoon. Telling the story of the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Gallipoli, this immersive piece gives a powerful insight into the horrific experiences of a group of young Dublin rugby players on the battlefields at Gallipoli and presents the audience with striking messages about conflict, friendship and attitudes towards the Irish members of the British army at the time.

As it brings the audience through the experiences of the soldiers; of leaving their families, of the trenches, of snatching moments of fun amidst the destruction with songs and games, the agony of being injured in battle, and the later lasting agony of revisiting those moments even long after leaving the front lines, Pals switches between raw, painful reality, and equally moving, terrifying symbolism to bring to the fore the real experiences of these men.

The repetition of the phrase “Would Ireland be proud of us?” is a potent one, which is crucial for the soldiers in the piece. When we later see the image of a woman mechanically throwing envelopes on the ground with the names of the dead, or the sight of a man crying in terror and agony on the ground, this question becomes a potent one for the audience, calling the varied historical perspectives on Irish members of the British army into sharp focus.

The superb creation and writing of the piece was brought to life with energy and feeling by the excellent cast, comprised of John Cronin, Liam Heslin, Laura Murray, Kevin Olohan and Thomas Reilly. This was further complimented by the forceful and impressive lighting and sound design by Sarah Jane Shiels and Carl Kennedy. This piece is structured to make you feel that you are at the heart of the tale, from the actors sitting beside you telling you their story, to sitting on the less-than-luxurious beds; it all heightened the experience of the stark reality of this group of young Dublin men in Gallipoli. I was so moved and struck by the piece that, as one of the soldiers asked me to give him a cheer as he left for war, I wanted to say no, to tell him to stay, to warn him that his and his friends’ dreams of heroism and cheerful camaraderie on the battlefield would soon be shattered by the horrific reality of the war. It took a few minutes after leaving the performance for that sense of concern and fear for the soldiers to leave. This was a powerful, consuming piece of theatre that brings history to life with expertise.

Pals- The Irish at Gallipoli runs at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks until 30th April

Review – Dublin Oldschool

Dublin Oldschool

Project Arts Centre


IMG_2015-0       This production, written by Emmet Kirwan and directed by Philip McMahon, is a fresh, dynamic, entertaining and powerful piece of theatre. I was caught as soon as Kirwan and Anderson entered, torches shining across the auditorium, immediately and crucially breaking the anticipated boundary between performer and audience. I must admit that, directly following that, my heart sank as Kirwan began to rap. I don’t like rap, or at least I didn’t think I did. However, within moments Kirwan had changed my mind. It showed the link between rap and poetry that I have always found it difficult to reconcile.

          This strong beginning was maintained with a fast paced combination of narration and acted scenes. The transitions between narration and dialogue, between rap and natural speech, and between humour and hard-hitting reality were seamless. This was further complimented by the well developed, realistic characters and recognisable settings. Anyone who has walked around Dublin at night can picture these characters beyond the theatre space and into real life. This was down to a mix of skilled writing and excellent delivery from both actors.

          I now wish to return to the combination of comedy and shocking truths I mentioned earlier. Though I and the rest of the audience laughed regularly throughout the piece, it was, at its core, a very hard-hitting, stark piece. The audience were laughing away one moment (though quite often ruefully) the would suddenly be silenced the next by a single line, a single image of the cruel, destructive reality of “the sesh” that Jason and Daniel live on. This was very powerful as the comedy drew the audience in and caught their attention for the more serious moments

          In terms of design, the lighting of the performers on the bare stage was simple yet stunning. Sarah Jane Shiels’ lighting design managed to capture the feeling of the piece without ever over complicating itself.

         In short, this production was, and I don’t use this phrase lightly, a tour-de-force. One of the most naturalistic and truthful yet somehow highly stylised pieces of theatre I have seen, Dublin Oldschool is a powerful snapshot into the world of “the buzz,” that should be seen by everyone that it can possibly be brought to.