The Importance of Being Earnest – Review

15_The_Importance_of_Being_Earnest

Gate Theatre

16/01/16

Although it was first staged just short of 121 years ago, Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, still feels fresh and, well, earnest. Even in reading the text, the vigour with which each character lives their lives is infectious; in performance it becomes a feast of vivacious madcap antics. Earnest fits the style of the Gate theatre perfectly, and Patrick Mason does a superb job with it.

Marty Rea’s acting has always impressed me, but in this production he truly came into his own, revealing perfect comic timing and a flair for face-pulling akin to Danny Kaye. Of the three portrayals of the character of Jack Worthing I have seen, this is the only one that I feel does justice to the character.  The rest of the cast all deliver impressive performances, with every actor pulling their weight.  Particularly notable were Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Lorna Quinn making the perfect duo as Gwendolen and Cecily, bouncing the energy of the two characters back and forth with sharp but easy precision.

From here, I wish to turn to the set, designed by Francis O’Connor. Few sets can capture the tone of a piece and the nuances of the characters that inhabit each setting as well as O’Connor’s does. With a relatively bare pre-set, we have little clue as to how much the set is going to bring to the production (though the addition of an image of Wilde on the back wall was a clever and playful touch!). Soon however, the many surprises of the set are revealed as a whole host of sliding panels and extensions transform into the home of Algernon Moncrieff, with everything a well-to-do dandy could want, through a garden, to the home of Jack, the polar opposite of the foppish Algy.

Wilde himself described Earnest as “exquisitely trivial,” and that was certainly the feeling in the auditorium at the Gate. I regretted wearing eyeliner as tears of laughter streamed down my face; from polite titters to uproarious belly laughs, the room rippled almost constantly with a wave of collective laughter.  This production of The Importance of Being Earnest is a lively, smart and suitably irreverent evening of Wildean wit and frivolity.

The Importance of Being Earnest runs until 6th February 2016.

 

The Boys – Review

Smock Alley

18/11/15

12239664_1096620553684215_8669207894965992384_n

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.

The Shadow of a Gunman – Review

Abbey Theatre

Dir: Wayne Jordan

21/7/15

INBV-Theatre-Shadow-Of-A-Gunman

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.

Forever Young – Review

Clonmel Junction Festival

One Step at a Time & Junction Joes

10/7/15

foreveryoung

Forever Young is vastly different to any other piece of theatre I have ever partaken in or seen. A promenade piece, this show is deeply personal and engaging as it takes the audience on an adventure through the thoughts and possibilities of their youth in enlivened retrospect.

This was an exciting show that demanded full engagement from the audience. From the physical journey to the ideological one, there were elements of choice and personal input that makes each performance unique and dynamic for each audience.

It is a complex piece but well executed by the cast, with an incredible network of information, story and ideas being built from before the performance is even due to start as you get a text informing you of the start location and time and giving you instructions for preparing for the performance. This all gives an impression of conspiracy and mystery that creates an intriguing, and dynamic atmosphere throughout the piece.

Beyond this, it is hard to describe Forever Young without spoiling it for any of you that are lucky enough to catch it on its trip to the Traverse in Edinburgh. However, I will say that this is a spirited and well-thought-out piece that will get inside your head, let you inside those of its creators and characters and, most importantly, prompt you to venture inside your own thoughts and ideas as you “go one-to-one with a reclining chair, a team of adolescent experts and an outdoor foolhardy adventure.”

Overture – A Magical Italian Bubble Concerto

White Memorial Theatre

Clonmel Junction Festival

9/7/15

Bubbleshow

I may be 18, but for the time I sat in the balcony of the White Memorial Theatre this afternoon, I might have been mistaken for an open-mouthed, wide-eyed, wonder-filled five-year old. Such was my enjoyment of this show, created and performed by Michele Caffagi.

Caffagi creates a mesmerising orchestra of bubbles, using everything from a clarinet to a tennis net to produce shimmering arcs, swirling storms, enormous orbs and flurrying clouds of bubbles across the stage. Not only is his skill in doing this impressive, but his sweet, light-hearted, silent-vaudevillian style of performance brings an endearing energy and enthusiasm to the show with each little dance and satisfied giggle. By playing around in the audience and bringing children and adults alike up onstage to take part in his brilliant bubbly tricks, Caffagi invites an enthusiasm from the audience that reflects his on stage. Even the only flaw I found in the production becomes a virtue in Caffiagi’s performance as he recovered expertly from some late responses to lighting cues.

With children jumping around catching bubbles, parents laughing and joining in, and Caffiagi leading this capering concerto of fun, Overture is a sweet and fanciful romp through a world of iridescent magic.

Review – I Heart Alice Heart I

Originally written for The Public Reviews

Project Arts Centre

18/3/15

Photo by Emma Burke Kennedy

Photo by Emma Burke Kennedy

       In going to see HotForTheatre’s production of “I Heart Alice Heart I,” the audience are not told a story, they do not simply watch a show; they are invited into the lives of Alice Slattery (Clare Barrett) and Alice Kinsella (Amy Conroy). From the moment Barrett and Conroy step nervously onto the stage, tugging anxiously at cardigan pockets, wringing their hands and breathlessly telling themselves and each other what to do; they bring us into the welcoming, moving and very real world of the two Alices. Presenting a fictional story in a documentary theatre style, Conroy conveys the tale of these two women’s lives, and on a broader scale, elements of the lives of many people around the world with a beautiful honesty and openness.

        This show was a simply told, stunningly moving piece of theatre. As Barrett and Conroy bounced the story back and forth between them, taking it in turns to tell the audience part of their tale or comment on what the other said, they created a perfectly paced and balanced mix of humour and seriousness throughout. Even as they said comic lines and pointed out each others’ amusing flaws, the audience never laughed at the characters, always with them. From their nervousness and the heart-warming story they told, came a sense of not only them supporting each other, but of everyone in the auditorium, both on and offstage alike, bolstering and supporting each other.

       Helping bring Conroy’s excellent writing and her and Barrett’s superb performances to life was the detailed and interesting design of the stage, with the whole play mapped out within the set through posters, charts, post-its and postcards. John Crudden’s lighting design and Ciaran Omelia’s set complimented the scripting and performances, capturing the feeling behind the piece, the setting of the story, and the audience’s imaginations perfectly.

       Finally, at the end of the show there was a “Call to Conscience,” where a number of well-known Irish citizens give a small talk on the subject of the upcoming marriage referendum. At last night’s performance the speaker was Ailbhe Smyth, feminist and lesbian activist, who gave an insightful and interesting discussion of the upcoming referendum and a call for people to vote. This addition to the show, reminiscent of the Abbey Theatre’s Noble Call after performances of The Risen People last year, bridges the gap between the stage and the lives of the audiences, and brings the message of this fictional story firmly into the reality that informed it.

       In short, this is a heart-warming love story which, through sparkling comedy, emotive storytelling, and touching honesty, brings a powerful message to the audience and teaches about love, life and equality.

thepublicreview_ver_print

Review – Dublin Oldschool

Dublin Oldschool

Project Arts Centre

13/12/14

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.

Review – Hamlet

Just Friends Theatre Collective

Smock Alley

12/12/14Hamlet

This production directed by Aisling Smith with Just Friends Theatre Company, was the second Hamlet I have seen this year and it couldn’t have been more different from the first. Where Ostermier’s porduction with Berlin’s Schaubuhne was a loud, large scale production that tried to shock the audience at every turn, Smith’s Hamlet was a relaxed, engaging and accessible piece. The costuming and setting was unusual with modern dress being worn and the various levels of the Boy’s School space being used to great effect. However, apart from these and the paring back of the script, this was a show that was primarily concerned with telling the audience the enduring story of Hamlet.

For the most part, the performances were very competent, with Rory Doherty finding the balance between Hamlet’s mask of madness and his determination to discover and act upon the true facts of his father’s death, Michael Mullen and Lauren McGarry playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as a young couple and engaging performances from a host of other characters, especially Horatio and Marcellus played by Colm Kenny-Vaughan and Jimmy Kavanagh.

In terms of design, there were some beautiful moments of lighting by Paraic McLean, particularly the final tableau and the lighting of the ghost. Unfortunately due to the placing of the ghost in an archway behind the audience only certain portions of the audience could fully see the striking image. The sound design was unfortunately not as effective as it drowned out certain lines and did not add much to the piece overall.

In terms of direction, the production was overall very good, with only one scene that jarred with the rest of the play. The death of Polonius verged on pantomimic in its execution and detracted somewhat from the drama of the moment. More precision and subtlety would have made this scene much more effective.

Overall, this production of Hamlet was an entertaining and engaging evening’s theatre and I am interested to see more work from Just Friends Theatre Collective.

#LoveTheatreDay

theatre-faces1

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
23/10/2014

IMG_1569.JPG

“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.