Category Archives: Theatre

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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Theatrical: ‘Rearing is sparing’ at the Axis

Currently showing at the Axis in Ballymun, as part of the 2021 Dublin Theatre Festival, is Thommas Kane Byrne’s latest play ‘Rearing is sparing’. Starring Karen Ardiff and Denise McCormack, it tells the tale of two north inner city Dublin women as they sit separately, outside a courthouse. Anita’s (Denise McCormack) son is on trial. They narrate their tale, and that of each of their two sons, and how their actions have affected both their lives, leading them to this point.

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Theatrical: ‘A Wilde Fan’ at the Draiocht

Bottom Dog Theatre company from Limerick produced a show at the Belltable Theatre in Limerick in  November 2019. It was called ‘A Wilde fan’. It is a one man show, written and performed by Limerick actor Myles Breen, and directed by Liam O’Brien. The plan I believe had been to tour the show around the country in the new year. Then came Covid…

Early in the pandemic the show was live-streamed from the Belltable and I attended that online show. I was impressed by the play – despite the obvious limitations of streaming any live theatre. With the pandemic hopefully nearing its conclusion; and with audience attendance now increased to 60% capacity; I was happy to revisit the show in its live form at the Draiocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown last night.  

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Theatrical: ‘Walls and windows’ by Rosaleen McDonagh in the Abbey Theatre

This week sees the debut of ‘Walls and windows’ by Rosaleen McDonagh in the Abbey theatre. A play which tells the tale of a Traveler couple Julia and John Reilly as they navigate their way through 21st century Ireland. So for the third consecutive night, I took myself to the playhouse.

Before the play began, the artistic director of the Abbey, Caitríona McLaughlin, made an announcement. The character of Julia was meant to be portrayed by Sorcha Fox, but due to unforeseen circumstances, she would now be played by Sarah Morris who would be reading her part from the book. This was worrying – even with the best efforts and intentions of the actor stepping in at the last minute, this would surely damage the flow of the piece as it is thrown off kilter by the unavoidable inclusion of an unrehearsed actor?

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Theatrical: ‘God of carnage’ at Smock Alley Theatre

‘God of of carnage’ by Yasmina Reza, had its opening night at Smock Alley Theatre’s main stage this evening. Having experienced a very light menu of live theatre thus far this year, I booked my ticket the day they went on sale. As the Irish government has decided to punish the live entertainment industry under the guise of public health, theatres are only allowed to operate at 20% capacity, I wanted to make sure I booked my seat early. With such drastically reduced audiences, tickets are difficult to acquire as shows sell out in an instant. Eating in a restaurant afterwards faces far lighter restrictions despite posing the same risk of acquiring the Plague.

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‘Rogue’ by Lee Coffey in Smock Alley Theatre

Leaving the Viking Sheds Theatre in Clontarf on March 11th last year, having seen ‘Dirtbirds’ little did I realise that it would be fifteen months before I’d enter an Irish theatre again. The dry spell was broken yesterday evening when I attended ‘Rogue’ by Lee Coffey on the main stage of Smock Alley theatre. Performed by the graduating class of the Gaiety School of Acting, I was very curious. Having seen Coffey’s plays ‘In our veins’ and ‘Murder of crows’ in recent years, I know that he’s a talented playwright. The director for this show was Tracy Ryan (whose direction of ‘Iphegenia in Splott’ in Smock Alley some years ago was a powerhouse of piece.)
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