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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
‘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.
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.) Click button below for next page
In the final weeks of January semi-live theatre is making a comeback in Ireland.
‘The Approach’ by Mark O’Rowe is being performed live at the Project Arts Centre from the 21st to the 24th January. ‘Happy Days’ by Samuel Beckett is being staged on January 30th at the Olympia. The shows will be streamed around the world. The seats in the theatres will remain empty.
I am currently engaged in an internal debate whether or not to get a ticket for either or both shows. I know that the Mark O’Rowe play would be worth seeing – having attended‘Howie the Rookie’ in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght before lockdown last year I was blown away by the performance of Stephen Jones in the title role of an incredible play. It may be blasphemous to say it, but I’d be more reluctant to see the Beckett play. Perhaps I lack the intellectual ability to understand his work? Having seen ‘Waiting for Godot’ in Smock Alley Theatre, I was slightly bewildered at the hype. Samuel Beckett is like the sacred cow of Irish theatre – a lack of appreciation of his work reveals you to be a philistine. I remain ambivalent about him. However ‘Happy Days’ is being performed by Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael to perfection in ‘Derry Girls’ so she’d be the main attraction for this show for me.
Each year over the Christmas and New Year period, the Abbey (Ireland’s national theatre) stages a show with an extended run. These productions tend to be crowd-pleasers which suits the time of year, and also act as slightly more adult counterparts to the insanity of the panto season. For the past three years I have attended – ‘Drama at Inish’ last year; ‘Come from away’ in 2018; and ‘Let the right one in’ in 2017. All were wonderful.