Category Archives: Theatre

IDGTF ’22 Double bill – ‘Quarantine / Three queens stuck in Dublin city’.

This May bank holiday Monday sees the welcome return of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, for the first time since 2019. Now in its 19th year, the pandemic of the past two years had thwarted its occurrence for two years. It’s back for the next two weeks, featuring twenty-three productions in various venues around the city. Check out the 2022 programme on http://www.gaytheatre.ie.

For my matinee viewing today I went to the Main Hall in the Teachers’ Club on Parnell Square to see a comedy double bill ‘Quarantine’ and ‘Three Queens Stuck in Dublin’.

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To the theatre: ‘The Great War’ Neil LaBute and Judder Theatre

As the pandemic (or at least the lockdown) draws to a close, the theatre world is back with a vengeance. It was with great anticipation that I attended Chaplin’s Bar this evening, where in the upstairs space Judder Theatre is staging the one act play ‘The Great War’ by Neil LaBute.

Judder Theatre has been producing plays since 2018. After the two year plague, this is Judder’s first production since the world reopened. Originally its plays were staged in Doyles, before moving to its present home upstairs on Hawkins Street. The upstairs theatre is a comfortable and intimate space – the audience is like an observer in the room immersed in the action, rather than the distanced onlookers in a more traditional. For a play like ‘The Great War’ this is very effective.

The lights come up. A man and a woman emerge onto the stage and sit on the sofa. From the first words it is clear that this is a couple at war. Or to be more accurate, this is a soon to be ex-couple. In the process of obtaining a divorce they decide to bypass the lawyers for an evening, to decide among themselves, how to split the marital estate. There’s one, rather overwhelming problem however – they cannot stand the sight of each other. As they down hard liquor, barbs and insults are traded. They lament the nine years they have wasted on this broken relationship. Nothing is off limits. Bitterly condemning each other for squandering each other’s youth and beauty, neither seems ready to forgive or forget, using this meeting as yet another chance to tear a strip off each other.

It’s hilariously funny. Anyone who has endured a breakup will identify with the frustration and regret that is on display here – although perhaps not to the same vituperative effect.

To complicate matters, they have two children. How will the decisions they make on their future affect the boys? I won’t give any spoilers but what they reveal to each other about their thoughts and feelings isn’t precisely what the marriage guidance counsellor would consider mature or responsible.

The couple is played with relish by Gertrude Montgomery and Vincent Patrick. The onstage chemistry between them is electric – although you’d be in fear for them with the toxic atmosphere and brutal insults. Funny, sharp and with great timing they are a very effective couple in conflict.

Directed by Shaun Elebert this blackly comic play runs until Saturday at 6.30pm in Chaplin’s Bar on Hawkins Street.

Recommended.

Theatrical: ‘Abomination : a DUP opera’ at the Abbey Theatre



In May 2008, Democratic Unionist Party MP Iris Robinson gave an interview to the Stephen Nolan radio show on BBC Northern Ireland. In it she expressed sorrow that a gay man had been beaten almost to death in a homophobic attack in Belfast. Homosexuality was still an ‘abomination’ to Iris however, but homosexuals like murderers could be forgiven by accepting Jesus. She had a lovely NHS psychiatrist, who worked with her who could help those suffering from the ‘abomination’ to be cured. To say that the interview caused a reaction is quite an understatement. Universally condemned for her religious and homophobic extremism, neither Iris or her political party backed down. Her party colleague Ian Paisley Junior (son of the Reverend Senior who in the early 1980s campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the north with the catchy slogan ‘Save Ulster from sodomy’) supported Robinson. Iris’ husband Peter Robinson – then the First Minister of Northern Ireland remained silent – possibly too busy shouting ‘No, no, no’, at any questions being posed to him.

She later stated in parliament that “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children” (although she later claimed that this direct quote had been misinterpreted. )

The BBC started doing some investigation into Mrs. Robinson’s background and in January 2010 a Spotlight documentary was released which revealed that throughout the previous year’s controversy, 60 year old Iris had been conducting an extra-marital affair (I’m assuming said affair was ‘torrid’) with a 19 year old named Kirk McCambley, and that she’d been using her political influence to get loans approved for him to open a cafe. Iris checked herself into a psychiatric unit and announced her retirement from public life.

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‘Endgame’ by Samuel Beckett at the Gate – the worst night in the history of theatre

In November as part of the 2021 Dublin Dance Festival, I attended the Compagnie Maguy Marin’s performance of ‘May B’, in the O’Reilly Theatre. This was a modern dance interpretation of ‘Endgame’ by Samuel Beckett. Beckett had offered his support to the dance company for this interpretation. It was an appalling evening – you can read my account of it at the link – https://midnightmurphy.com/2021/11/08/i-went-to-an-interpretative-dance-version-of-samuel-becketts-endgame/

I had previously only seen Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ which I had modestly enjoyed. Last night I felt it was time to go the theatre with new eyes, to experience the Gate Theatre production of ‘Endgame’. Surely this was a work that needed to be seen in its original form, and not through the medium of a surly, jazz-hands, interpretive dance version.

This latest production was directed by Danya Taymor and has received state funding through the Arts Council and RTE. It stars Frankie Boyle as Hamm – a surly, blind and wheelchair bound man living in a grotty room in a post-apocalyptic world. He is cared for by a limping Clov (Robert Sheehan). Hamm’s parents Nagg and Nell (played by Sean McGinley and Gina Moxley) have no legs and live in a pair of dustbins in the corner. Hamm spends the play insulting and berating Clov, who threatens to leave Hamm, but never does. There are long speeches (it’s ‘an absurdist comedy’). There’s repetition in the lines and the actions – poor Clov is the only character that moves on the stage (Hamm being wheeled about notwithstanding) throughout the play.

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Theatrical: ‘Every brilliant thing’ at the Peacock Theatre

Last night I went to the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre to see ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and starring Amy Conroy. First and foremost, this wasn’t an entirely awful show, but one that has major problems.

Written in 2013, about a woman whose mother suffered from mental health issues, attempting suicide for the first time when her daughter was only seven. To cope with this horror, the little girl starts a list of all the lovely things in life – hence the play title ‘Every brilliant thing’. From a seven-year old’s perspective this involves things like ice-cream; sunshine; the colour yellow; being allowed to stay up late to watch television. The story progresses to various points throughout her life where her mother’s continuing struggle with her mental health impacts on her daughter, whose own mental health is challenged. The list of numbered brilliant things continues as time progresses – reaching into the thousands. Clearly mental health is a serious topic, and one that affects every family in the land. This is not where the problem lies.

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Theatrical: ‘Faith Healer’ at the Abbey

In December 2019, upon the announcement of the Abbey Theatre’s 2020 programme of events, I bought a ticket to see ‘Faith Healer’ by Brian Friel for its March revival. Starring Niamh Cusack, Aidan Gillen and Nigel Lindsay, it would be my first time seeing an adaptation of a Brian Friel play. Obviously the production was cancelled, along with all other live events. These have only just reappeared in the last couple of months, after almost two years of darkened stages.

I met Aidan Gillen randomly, early during the lockdown. At least I think I did. When I say I ‘met’ him, it may be more accurate to say I ‘encountered’ him. I recognised him from ‘Queer as folk’ from the tail end of the 20th century, and from various other shows. Imagine my surprise when one lunchtime, last spring I was crossing the Samuel Beckett Bridge to my northside of the Liffey, laden down with a bag full of insulin and needles, when he almost crashed into me on his bicycle. I was crossing at the green pedestrian light, and I imagine that he was trying to zip through before the cycle lights turned red. He was quite apologetic as he went on his way. My internal response was ‘Oh look it’s Stuart from Queer as Folk’. I think it was him anyway. If it was, then his politeness was impressive. If it wasn’t then, I retract the cycling slur from his good name. In either case – watch those lights.

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Review: ‘Straight to video’ at the Project Arts Centre

Last night I went to see ‘Straight to video’ by Emmett Kirwan at the Upstairs Space in the Project Arts Centre – my first trip to this theatre since ‘Well that’s what I heard’ in the Downstairs Cube in December 2019. I was looking forward to it. Emmett Kirwan’s last play ‘Dublin Old School’ was excellent and was adapted into an impressive film. I’d last seen him perform in ‘Riot’. That was a collaborative piece however. This was entirely his script.

Set in the 1990s the play is about the staff in a rundown video shop named ‘Video Venture’ in Tallaght. Owner Barry (Emmett Kirwan) has installed a sunbed in the corner to try to diversify his business (he’s been losing trade to the ‘video van man’ who has been renting illegal videos from the back of a van). Barry lives in the walk-in safe in the shop, after his wife threw him out for engaging in a sordid sex act with a hairdresser to whom he was not bound in holy matrimony. Shop assistant Carl (Colin Campbell) is bored with his life – a semi-closeted gay guy who lives with his gangster brothers – dreams of a new life. His best friend is fellow shop worker Claire (Kate Gilmore) who is caring for her ill mother while her feckless brothers idle about.

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I went to an interpretative dance version of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’

I am not a fan of Samuel Beckett. There. I have said it. With the exception of ‘Waiting for Godot’ I find his work dreary, incomprehensible and stupefyingly dull. This may be more a reflection on me, and my lack of intelligence than it is on Beckett. After all the great and the good speak of the playwright in hushed, reverential terms. When I look out my window I see a massive bridge that has been named after him. That’s earned right? Or maybe he has been placed on an intellectual pedestal and to extoll his virtues is to signal ‘Yes, I too am an educated, sophisticated person?’

Why then would I go to see a French, interpretative, modern dance adaptation of ‘Endgame’?

Because I was asked to. As part of the 2021 Dublin Dance Festival, the world renowned Compagnie Maguy Marin was performing ‘May B’, over three nights in the O’Reilly Theatre. Samuel Beckett actually offered his blessing to the dance company for this interpretation.

I didn’t know what to expect. I knew my feelings about Beckett. The expression ‘French, modern-dance interpretation of Endgame by Samuel Beckett’ was chilling. But I was willing to take a chance. There was a chance that it was going to be a pleasant surprise.

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Theatrical: ‘The Visit’ by Deirdre Kinahan at the Draiocht

As part of the 2021 Dublin Theatre Festival, ‘The visit’ by Deirdre Kinahan is playing at the Draiocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown. Last night was the opening night of its four night run, and I had a ticket.

The Draiocht is a lovely venue, with unusual theatre seating – namely that it is quite comfortable. Disappointingly I was seated in the back row. This seems to be the standard, while theatres are operating at only 60% capacity – lone audience members are banished to the dark recesses and edges, while the groups get the good seats. It makes financial sense I suppose. At least it is not as mercenary as some of the other schemes in operation by the theatre festival.

Take ‘Conversations after sex’ in the Project. In-house tickets cost 26.50 eur. Meanwhile they are charging the same price for the live-stream and on-demand tickets. I was baffled when I saw that. The theatre has suffered since the pandemic but to charge that price for what essentially is a YouTube video of a live performance is not treating the audience with due respect. Surely it’s common sense that no-more than a cinema ticket price be charged for an onscreen viewing?

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Theatrical: ‘Purple snowflakes and titty wanks’ at the Peacock Theatre

Sarah Hanly’s debut play ‘Purple snowflakes and titty wanks’ is currently running as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It is a co-production with the Royal Court Theatre in London, and runs in Dublin until 16th October.

A one-woman show starring Hanly, it tells the tale of Saoirse Murphy from her religious secondary school years in a convent school in Enniskerry, to the bright lights of musical theatre college in London. The story is relayed as a conversation between Saoirse and her best friend Aisling, as she struggles with an eating disorder, and her attraction to other girls, while navigating the minefield that the sexual politics of life in a mixed sex school.

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