Rising – Review

Dublin Youth Theatre

Peacock Theatre



Some productions are made for the stage. Dublin Youth Theatre’s Rising, though it takes place in the Peacock, and with great success, is not one of those productions. This show, developed by Helena Enright, Tom Creed and the cast, is the sort of production that should stop the traffic on O’Connell Street, interrupt the feeding of ducks in Stephen’s Green or stir up the orderly queue at the Tesco checkouts. Described as a “wide-ranging contemporary look at what revolution means to young people now,” this production uses archive material, interviews, iconic songs and the boundless energy of the 20-strong Dublin Youth Theatre cast to awaken a range of ideas and ask vital questions about revolution, youth, art and activism.

In a series of vignettes, working with movement, music and text, the production explores various social issues and political causes through the years, probing the reasons behind why people engage, what makes people care. Decked out in an array of shirts and badges from the Palestinian Freedom Theatre, the Repeal the 8th movement, the Yes Equality campaign, and many others, the cast presents a strong ensemble that, though they may not all be united in the same causes, are powerfully united in their energy and enthusiasm towards taking a stand and making a difference.

Not only do the cast present a strong political energy, they also produce an impressive work in terms of artistic quality. The versatility of the performers, with many doubling as musicians as well as actors, and all engaging in dynamic movement pieces was impressive and engaging. Alongside this, Sarah Jane Shiels’ lighting design is the North Star guiding the energy of the piece, as even the most subtle changes in lighting have a pointed effect on the mood and perfectly parallel the tone of the script.

Rising will make you reconsider any presumptions you may have had about young people’s supposed political apathy, and leave you inescapably and inexhaustibly awake.



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

A Conversation With Karen Fricker

Karen Fricker, theatre academic and critic talks about her career, her views on current events and the future of theatre.

Karen Fricker web headshot copy

Tell us a little about what you do.
I am an assistant professor of Dramatic Arts at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. The focus of my research is on the ways in which globalization is affecting contemporary theatre and performance. Before I became an academic I worked as a theatre critic and arts magazine editor, and maintain a keen interest in theatre criticism and how it’s changing in the digital age.


How did you find your way into your field? Was it something you always had an interest in?
My mom sent me and my sister to a summertime drama programme at our local university when I was 12 and I have been hooked ever since.I studied English and Drama at university and didn’t find my way to criticism until after graduation, as I slowly realized that what I most loved about theatre – going to seeing shows and thinking and talking about then afterwards – could be something you do for a living.


What are your thoughts on the role of the critic in today’s society? How do you see it changing?
The received wisdom about criticism today is that thanks to the internet, everyone’s a critic. In fact everyone has always been a critic, inasmuch as the capacity to respond to the arts thoughtfully is part of what makes us human. But the rise of digital technologies means that pretty much anyone with a computer and internet access can broadcast their viewpoints. At the same time, and for related reasons, the number of paying jobs for professional critics is in decline, and some media outlets now privilege consumer/citizen reviews over expert ones. This is perceived by many with stakes in professional criticism as a situation of dire crisis. I prefer to see it as one of transition – expert voices will never be silenced. But just how they’re going to make themselves heard above the cacophony of online conversation is something that’s still playing itself out. It’s an exciting time.


What has your favourite theatre moment of the last 12 months been?
Ooh, I love that question. The most beautiful and moving performance I saw in 2014 was the contemporary circus piece Acrobates by the French company Le Montfort. I wrote about it extensively on my blog (www.karenfricker.wordpress.com) so I’ll not go on about it here — but I will say that contemporary circus is extremely vibrant at the moment and that maybe if Ireland gets really lucky, Willie White will program Acrobates in the Dublin Theatre Festival. That’s a hint, Willie.


What do you think of the current state of Irish theatre?
From 1997-2007 I lived in Dublin and was in the thick of things in the Irish performing arts, but now I only make it back twice a year so it’s hard for me to comment comprehensively. If I can say what work I most regret having missed in the years since I left it’s that of Anu Productions — their immersive Monto Cycle has been acknowledged as a major achievement. I am very sorry I never got a chance to see those productions.


If you had to pick one change to make to Irish theatre, what would it be?
Improved government funding.


You have worked a lot with young people, as an assistant professor in Brock University and on projects such as NAYD’s annual Young Critics programme. What are your thoughts on the future of theatre having worked with some of the practitioners, critics, academics and audiences of the present and future?
Working with young people is a great privilege, because through their eyes I see theatre as a space of limitless possibility and creativity. It’s impossible to get jaded! At the moment I am particularly interested to see what the next big thing after the post-dramatic (others may already know – please tell me!) and how digital criticism is going to continue to change my particular area of focus.


What advice would you give to a person considering pursing a similar career to yours?
Total, utter cliché but – follow your gut, follow your passion. If you feel like there’s something that needs to be said or done and you can’t figure out why no one is saying or doing it, that’s your cue. Do it yourself, say it yourself.


Thanks to Karen Fricker for sharing her thoughts.

Review – “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”


Rough Magic and Opera Theatre Company
The Olympia Theatre
22 June 2014

The City of Mahagonny, the city of decadence where anything goes except you. Written towards the end of the roaring twenties and premiered in Germany in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression, this play by Brecht and Weill describes the rise and fall of capitalism and materialism through the imaginary city of Mahagonny and the story of Jimmy Mahony. Founded by a trio on the run from the law, Mahagonny is to be a city of pleasure and a city of debts from which they make their fortune. However, from the off, flaws show through in the plan and the arrival of four lumberjacks from Alaska, including Jimmy Mahony, sees the beginning of the end for this city where food, sex, boxing and drinking are the only way of life.
Somewhat like Mahagonny itself this production by Opera Theatre Company and Rough Magic was overall very enjoyable but sadly had some cracks that showed through, though thankfully not to the same extent as in Mahagonny!
The performances were mostly excellent, particularly by John Molloy as Trinity Moses, who perfectly captured the suave nastiness of his character and whose rich bass filled every corner of The Olympia. Claudia Boyle also delivered a very impressive performance as Jenny, bringing a great power to the character, both vocally and in terms of characterization. I did find however that Julian Hubbard lacked a similar power in his role as Jimmy, with some of his vocals lost to the orchestra, which was a pity as his overall portrayal of the character was promising.
The design by Aedín Cosgrove was generally very good. The re-configuration of the venue, with the orchestra where the left half of the stalls would be and the performers roaming the stalls, circle and the left boxes, was effective from where I was sitting (Row B in the stalls) and, I believe, from the stage seats. However, I doubt it was of much benefit to the audience in the upper circle and boxes. Apart from this, I found the whole production design very impressive, from the simple yet effective lighting to the set; Mahagonny was really brought to life.
The part of the production that, for me, raised the most questions was the final scene. The crucifixion of Jimmy (where in the text he is executed in the electric chair) left me questioning the director’s reasoning. Was it placing Jimmy as a sort of Messiah? If he was, we must question what he was a messiah for. He promoted greed, violence and materialism. Did the director, Lynne Parker, really believe his character deserved the symbolism of the crucifixion or was she simply looking for an easy striking image? Whichever it was, it needed more to explain it.
I think that, like the plans of Begbick, Moses and Fatty, this production seemed promising but fell short in its execution. It was a daring and ambitious project but one that unfortunately did not live up to the ideas of its creators.