Trainspotting -Review

Smock Alley Theatre




Renton doesn’t choose life. Renton chooses “something else.” Tracing the interlocking stories of a group of friends, acquaintances, “associates,” whose lives have been ravaged by heroin, Trainspotting is a sharp, painfully funny and agonisingly heartbreaking piece.

From the off the cast bring an impressive energy and passion to the performance, with Shane O’Regan once again showing his skill and versatility as an actor, delivering a vivid, raw turn as Renton.  O’Regan captures the multi-faceted nature of the character; he is not just “a junkie,” he is a character that has a burning vitality and story around him. As well as portraying the intensity of Renton, O’Regan has a particular skill for quick quips, delivering sharp laughs and gags with a perfectly measured but naturalistic style. Lórcan Strain’s performance as Tommy was also impressive, capturing the changing situation impressively. The entire cast caught the essence of their characters, however, in the case of Foley and Healy there were moments at which this was masked by dubious Edinburgh accents. Inaccurate accents, laid on too thickly resulted in lines being lost.

Noteworthy in terms of Tracy Ryan’s direction is her use of the all too often neglected upper levels of the Boy’s School giving a powerfully immersive feeling to the piece. Ryan allows the audience to take in many aspects of the characters and situation by having the characters engage directly with them, breaking down the distance created by more traditional staging.

Adding to this immersive feeling, Brian Murray’s lighting design, with its initial club atmosphere, right through to moments of intense use of shadow, was a particularly strong feature of the production. Once again, the clever use of the space available was evident in the design.

The whole production was well-constructed to truly draw the audience into the characters’ story, to the extent that at one point when a number of characters are chanting for another to jump dangerously from a height, members of the audience were so caught up in the atmosphere that they joined in the chant before realising what they were doing and stopping.  This is a good indicator of just how engaging and powerful this production is.

Trainspotting is not an easy play to watch, it demands engagement both in terms of your attention and your emotions, but it is a great play to watch. I came out of the auditorium well and truly phased by the intensity of the production; it didn’t feel like watching characters, it felt like watching people, and that is what makes Trainspotting an entertaining but stomach-turning and heart-wrenching piece of theatre.


Trainspotting runs until February 13th


Spandex Blues – Review

Smock Alley


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If you thought sibling rivalry was a problem in your family, you have nothing on E, Dublin’s greatest super-villain, youngest member of Dublin’s greatest superhero family. Written by Diane Crotty and directed by David Doyle, Spandex Blues is the simple but royally entertaining story of E, super-villain and little sister.

Both performers, Diane Crotty as E and Luke Casserly as Henchie, deliver engaging and enthusiastic performances. Crotty brings a great balance to her role, prompting gales of laughter throughout, while still conveying the more serious elements of her story with a touching sincerity. Her fluctuation in tone kept the piece moving apace and never let the energy burn out or flag. The cast also managed audience participation admirably, effectively moving what was a rather nervous audience to a point where they were willing to join Casserly in singing the Mission Impossible theme tune.

The design is simple and, for the most part, effective. The pre-set, with a video of various locations around Dublin city projected onto a white-board and surrounded by planning diagrams immediately framed the setting while also showing that it was not entirely the usual Dublin city. The lighting design has a few minor issues, with too much shadow falling on the actors’ faces at times, though that was also a case of the actors not always finding their light. That is, however, a small complaint about what was, overall a very entertaining piece of theatre.

Spandex Blues will make you both laugh out loud and pause to think, and most of all it will transform your view of the number 16 bus through Drumcondra forever.

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.

Douze – Review

Smock Alley

Tiger Dublin Fringe



In a flurry of glitter, sequined hot-pants and shimmering gold curtains Xnthony, an Irish Eurovision hopeful, bursts onto the stage and for the next hour proceeds to present the songs and dances with which he intends to represent Ireland in Sweden 2016. The exuberance with which he, Hannah and Tiffany exclaim “We’re so excited!” and the vim with which they burst into each musical number is contagious; the audience is splitting a seam laughing and clapping along in no time.

This is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously; yes, there were dud notes sung, the dances could definitely have been a bit more in time, and the props were touch-and-go, but it was enormous fun. I could spend this review talking about the things that went wrong, the moments of entanglement in sparkly gold fringes, the near miss with a bucket of confetti but I’m not. This show wasn’t polished, it was brash in the best possible way, brimming with enthusiasm and confidence. As the audience joined in with the songs, voted for their favourites and dissolved into helpless fits of shrieking giggles, it was obvious that this show was a roaring success in its own right.

A frolicking feast of invention and vivacity, Douze is a refreshing, glittery romp that it is hard not to enjoy.

Spring Awakening – Review

Ill-Advised Theatre Company

Smock Alley


Spring Awakening is a heartbreaking story of innocence, oppression and discovery with an impressive score and powerful message. This production, directed by James O’Connor, is a competent and spirited rendition of it.

There was an impressive energy in the cast, with the three leads, Adam Tyrell as Melchior, Kevin C. Olohan as Moritz and Megan McDonnell, giving strong performances, both vocally and in terms of acting. Of the rest of the cast Shane O’Regan and Andy Carberry were particularly notable, with O’Regan switching between the character of Ernst, a shy schoolboy, and a rough reformatory inmate with such skill that it took me a few moments to recognise that it was the same actor. The only point that I would question about the cast is their manner of working as a chorus, though they worked well together for the most part, there were certain ensemble members who, at times, drew attention towards themselves when they were not meant to be the focus of the scene.

Though it is an intense piece, I found that the tension levels, particularly in the first half of the show, were kept too consistently high, leaving the actors with nowhere to go for the climatic scenes; there was little sense of intermittent crescendo. This was a pity as it meant that some of the stunning scenes like the number “Totally Fucked,” which was a show-stopping performance, did not stand out as much as they could have.

In technical terms the set and lighting were minimalistic yet powerful, with some especially beautiful features in Caoimhe Ní Fhaoláin’s lighting design at either side of the interval. I did however find the microphones used were an issue in terms of sound. While I understand why they were being used for the musical numbers, they needed to either be switched off for dialogue or the cast needed more practice using them as dialogue was lost or scenes broken by the sound of someone’s collar bumping the mic, a mic slipping or someone brushing their hand across it. This was an unfortunate issue as it sometimes distracted from what was otherwise a very moving and well-executed production.

      Though there were a couple of issues in directorial and technical terms, I feel that these can be easily ironed out as the run continues. Overall, Spring Awakening is a dynamic production that entertains and engages while portraying a potent and still frighteningly pertinent message.

Spring Awakening runs until Saturday 1st August.

Review – Hamlet

Just Friends Theatre Collective

Smock Alley


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.