Bat the Father, Rabbit the Son – Review

The New Theatre

2/11/17

Rabbit

Rabbit is a self-made man, a king of Dublin haulage, a businessman through and through. Sitting in front of Keogh, one of his employees, Rabbit tells us of how he built Rabbit haulage from nothing, or at least from nothing more than a ladies bike and his Butlin’s Rock legs. He’s proud of what he has built, and isn’t going to let anything take the place of his name in haulage. He says he started with a ladies bike, but even a fiercely independent character like Rabbit can’t entirely deny his past; Rabbit wasn’t always Rabbit.  As he cuts a deal with Keogh, Rabbit finds himself thrown off track, some  things won’t be forgotten and as he speaks the spirit of his father, Bat, bubbles up irrepressibly and pours through his mind and out his mouth pushing Rabbit into flashbacks and anecdotes of a time past, when Rabbit was Terence in short trousers.

This warring of Rabbit’s sharp businessman’s personality with that of his father, a Citizen’s Army member and pawn shop assistant who takes lie at a more forgiving pace, is impressively executed in Donal O’Kelly’s relentlessly engaging script and impressive performance. O’Kelly’s writing is replete with subtle hints at exposition and backstory amongst Rabbit’s bluster and pronouncement, while still leaving space for irreverent and mischievous storytelling throughout. This is complimented by his energetic style of performance that brings the spark and vivacity of his writing to life.image-06

The simple stage design comprised of a steel table and chair, constructed by Aideen Farell, provides a dynamic canvas for O’Kelly’s invention. Paired with Cathy O’Carroll’s lighting design, these elements combine to truly transport the audience down the Liffey with Rabbit, Keogh (and Bat).

Bat the Father, Rabbit the Son is a must see, an irrepressible feat of storytelling that explores the relationship between father and son, and past and present with insight, humour and verve.

Bat the Father, Rabbit the Son  runs at The New Theatre, Dublin until 11th November.

Running With Dinosaurs – Review

The New Theatre

19/04/17

 

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Image: Bill Woodland

 

Written by Nadine Flynn, Running With Dinosaurs is a moving  story of a family in crisis that takes an honest look at the effects of gang culture and financial difficulty. Jay is in his early twenties and is trying to find his way in the world and get a job, his sister Siobhan is traversing the ups and downs of her first relationship, and Sammy is seventeen and an aspiring musician who just wants to keep his head down. Add into the mix their grandfather Frank, who has recently moved to a nursing home, their mother who is slipping back into an alcohol addiction and Siobhan’s questionable choice of boyfriend, and you have the full complement of family drama.

Though the story is well constructed, entertaining and thought-provoking, the writing can at times be laboured, with certain lines seeming unnatural in their placement or phrasing.  This is particularly noticeable in the characters of Deco (Rory Dignam) and Frank (Tom Leavey), who are hesitant or stilted when delivering certain lines. However, despite this, the cast deliver good performances, with Daniel Monaghan standing out as particularly impressive in the role of Jay. Monaghan captured the full range of the character, blending sharp comic timing with a strong, affecting performance of the difficult situations Jay finds himself in,

Lee Wilson’s direction excellently draws out the layers in the story and makes the most of the stage space in portraying them. Particularly notable is the overlapping of scenes, with one scene beginning downstage as another is ending or silently being played out upstage. This is complimented by Bill Woodland’s lighting design which efficiently directs the focus of the audience to the main scene.

Running With Dinosaurs, though at some points a little stilted, is an engaging show that takes a raw look at what it is like to traverse the transition to adulthood in a disadvantaged area rife with gang culture.

 

Runs at The New Theatre until 29th April.

The Last Days of Cleopatra – Review

The New Theatre

22/3/17

Note: This is a review of a preview performance.

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“Sure that’s what you’re up against.”

Telling the story of a family living through the death of their mother, Laoisa Sexton’s The Last Days of Cleopatra is heartbreaking and hopeful, bringing the audience into the lives of Jackey, Natalie, and their father, Harry, as they face the slow death of Jackey and Natalie’s mother, and  make their way through difficulty, difference and hurt

Directed by Alan King, this production tackles sensitive and difficult topics with a blend of humour and care. The combination of King’s direction and Sexton’s writing makes this a powerfully real engagement between characters and audience; the focus is clearly on the development of each character throughout.  The interlocking lives of the family members overlap and intersect, sometimes comfortably, sometimes in more challenging ways, but always with an insightful exploration of the context and consequences of various events and interactions. Through recurrent motifs in the dialogue, a sense of painful repetition is created, suggesting an almost inescapable cycle of difficulty for the family. However, this is finely developed and if one looks, one can find the gaps in the cycle, the chances for hope.

This is impressively performed by cast Gerard Adlum, Ger Carey, Ruaidhri Conroy and Laoisa Sexton, who all convey the depth and humanity of their characters with skill. Particularly note-worthy was Sexton’s performance as Natalie; when Natalie expressed an emotion, the audience had little choice but to join her in it. These strong performances are enhanced by Eamon Fox’s effective and evocative lighting design which provides impressive depth to a small stage.

The Last Days of Cleopatra is an excellent production that unflinchingly looks into the highs and lows of a struggling family, and in doing so brings the audience and characters on a journey that reflects the best and worst we can be and challenges any settling or stagnation of our outlook on life.

The Last Days of Cleopatra runs until April 1st at The New Theatre, Temple Bar.

Dusk – Review

The New Theatre

13/10/16

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When one thinks of Irish myth and folklore on stage, one writer springs immediately to mind, W.B. Yeats. His plays earned their place in Irish theatre history for his lyrical writing, interpretations of the obscure and unexplored in Irish mythology, and reimagining of old well-worn tales.  His legacy has evidently lived on and manifests itself in Eamon Carr’s Dusk.  Telling the story of Aisling, who meets the ghost of the ancient Irish hero Cúchulain on the eve of her wedding, Dusk explores the real and mythological in Irish history. Carr’s verse writing and theatrical techniques are reminiscent of a number of Yeats ‘ works, with one particular scene in which The Morrígan (a mythological figure likened to the Valkyries of Norse folklore) dances, appearing to pay almost direct homage to At The Hawk’s Well. Drawing direct influence from such a well-known writer who has such an individual writing style is an ambitious decision, but for the most part, Carr takes on the challenge with impressive skill. There are points at which the text begins to lose pace in favour of stylistic writing (though I believe that can often be said of Yeats’ plays too!), but overall it is an engaging and well-crafted story.

Under Denis Conway’s direction, Garrett Lombard delivers an impressive performance as Cúchulain, striking the balance between ethereal and human qualities in the character, and deftly handling the dense text with gravity and intensity. It is his performance of the character that carries the show through its slow paced moments and keeps the audience engaged. There are, however, points at which Caoimhe Mulcahy (Aisling) appears to struggle with speaking in verse, breaking the flow of her character’s emotion. Similarly, the character of the Caretaker, played by Denis Conway, breaks the flow of the piece and slows its pace further, without much tangible benefit.

One of the most impressive scenes is the Morrigan’s dance, choreographed and performed by Justine Doswell. Though a short scene, it encapsulates the ethereal sense of the play effectively and further blurs the hazy lines between the real and mythological setting, and between past and present.

Worthy of mention is Katie Davenport’s set design which is actually composed largely of smoke and mirrors. With candles, a large mirror covering one wall and a dappled cloud pattern painted across it and the other two walls, the ambiguous setting is highlighted and each character’s reality is subtly represented.

Despite flaws in pacing and performance, Dusk is an engaging and interesting production, re-interpreting and challenging of the character of Cúchulain with regard to the mythological Ireland in which he existed and the Ireland which exists outside the theatre.

Dusk runs at The New Theatre until  October 15th.

Briseis After The Black – Review

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

Tiger Dublin Fringe

The New Theatre

21/9/16

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An adaptation of an adaptation of a play, in which a different actor with no prior rehearsal plays one of the leading characters each night, sounds like a recipe for a convoluted shambles of a production. Briseis After the Black proves this assumption wrong. With dexterity and energy, Coburn Gray conjures the production from just a few props and prompts as he stands on stage with his fellow actor.

Briseis After the Black tells the story of playwright Maria Black telling the story of Briseis and Achilles. Briseis, a character created as motivation for Achilles, then allowed to simply vanish from the Iliad with no further explanation, serves as a starting point for an exploration of literature’s tendency towards using female characters as plot devices then killing them off once they have served their purpose. Using multiple layers of storytelling, this production raises question after question, not always resolving them, but not always needing to. Is Maria Black simply being used as one of the characters she so hated? Is she one of the characters? Which story is more important to this production, that of Briseis or Black? From the inclusion of an actor that knows as little about the piece as the audience, to the switching between stories and Coburn Gray’s suggestion of action but persistent inaction, Briseis After the Black is a play that thrives on ambiguity and trusts its audience to understand.

This script that almost has a life of its own is excellently executed by Coburn Gray as he guides the volunteer actor (Zoe Ellen Reardon last night) through the play. From witty comments to self-aware lines in which he tells us where he changed the script and reminds us “I like to pause here, but I haven’t forgotten my line,” he works with an earnest and genuine performance style that engages and entertains throughout.

Briseis After the Black is an insightful, provocative and entertaining post-dramatic exercise in ambiguity that leads an exploration into the telling of myths, the treatment of women in literature and life, and how hard it is to separate a work from its creator.

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Half Light – Review

The New Theatre

Tiger Dublin Fringe

16/09/16

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Written and directed by Mollie Molumby, Half Light is a beautiful family show. A lesson in the art of storytelling, this production tells the story of Robin, a young boy who traverses his father’s storybook world to save his missing Dad from a monster.

In this seemingly simple story Molumby makes powerful use of fantasy to deal with reality. More complex than it initially seems, Half Light is a family show that does not shy away from the dark. As the show progresses, we see that Robin is learning not just that things can be difficult in story-books, with monsters, blizzards and bad guys, but that sometimes people deal with other kinds of difficulties in real life too.

Molumby’s sparkling script is brought to the stage with enthusiasm and energy by the cast. Fionn Foley delivers a spirited performance as Robin, playing with the audience with ease and capturing the bright-eyed eagerness of the character. The rest of the cast multitask impressively as they double as musicians, characters and narrators. They perform Foley’s compositions with vivacity and skill, never taking it too seriously, but always giving it their all.

Half Light is a well-crafted, insightful piece of theatre that is a pleasure to watch.

Risk – Review

New Theatre

Tiger Dublin Fringe

16/09/16

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Risk is risk and consequences are consequences. Two sisters, one criminal empire – and a few obstacles in their way lead to a tale of intrigue, family ties and a whole lot of murder.

Written and directed by Diane Crotty, Risk tells the story of two sisters, Frankie (Lisa Tyrell) and Aggie (Susan Barrett) who must work together to face the gangs of London to save their father’s kingdom after his death.  Both Tyrell and Bennett deliver engaging performances, each performance complimenting the other and creating a natural sibling dynamic.

Crotty’s script is a well-woven, classic gangster story with a contemporary tone. Both characters have a strong personal stamp which is established within moments of each beginning to speak. There are some lulls in the pacing of the piece, which loses some of the sense of excitement that is built up. However, overall it is an entertaining and sharply constructed script.

Working with a simple set, the direction of the piece is inventive and smart in its use of movement and spacing to aid the sometimes quite cinematic cuts from scene to scene. This is further complimented by Colm Horan’s simple but effective lighting design.

Overall Risk is an entertaining and sharp production that will take you on an exciting hunt through the world of London’s 1960s gangsters.

Risk runs at the New Theatre until September 24th.