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Monthly Archives: January 2011

As You Are Now So Once Were We

Do you feel like you know Dublin? Really know it? Do you walk the same route along the same streets every day? Is your morning routine so rigid that it almost feels like you are repeating it, on loop, day in day out? Get up at the same time, go to the bathroom, eat breakfast at the same table with the same people and then go out the same door, together.

The Company

Are you in a routine so much that it feels like you are less in a real world and more in a rehearsal? This award winning work (Best Production, Absolut Fringe 2010) by the Company takes this ideas of ‘a day in the life’ and also taking inspiration from James Joyce’s Ulysses tracks the journey of each of the four characters from waking in the morning to their journey through Dublin City to the Peacock theatre where they must stage their new work, whatever that may be.

The Company members Rob, Tanya, Nyree and Brian play heightened characterised versions of themselves. The Peacock stage has seldom looked so open as Dublin City and its buildings and ‘box towers’ are represented by sweetly choreographed large cardboard boxes. The opening sequence where the ‘set-up’ of the stage is played out before you like a manic session of lego building.

The audience are taken on a virtual walking tour of Dublin, where streets, sights, smells and places are all name-checked. The concept of associating certain foods and smells with certain places in the city is reminiscent of scenes from Joyce’s book. The idea of ‘rehearsal’ is examined throughout the work as pieces are replayed, altered and replayed again. The story of Paddy Dignam is one such case. If time can be slowed, stalled and replayed, the question of intervention crops up, where all of us are in a social media-led, isolated bubble which leaves less time for actual human contact as simple as a hug as we concentrate more on virtual ‘poking’. The irony is not lost that as crowds pulse through the city streets as we are hell bent on getting from A to B without knowing what is actually around us.

As You Are Now So Once Were We. Image courtesy of the Abbey Theatre

The work is extremely humorous, the in-jokes and deliberate over-reacting, I thought, gave a particular aspect which I believe can easily be lost in a work of this form and that is a connection with the audience and a commitment to entertain and engage. I imagine it to be the only work at the national theatre to refer to its Artistic Director Fiach McConghail as ‘The F-Bomb!”

The influence and direction by Jose Miguel Jimenez, who was seated in the audience, plays no small part in the production as he strives to keep the whole concept of time – the moment and our place in that moment – fluid and on track. With As You Are Now… Jimenez has justified the much hype about his ideas and abilities. He, along with the Company, really have set Irish theatre ablaze with a new, exciting and unique brand of work.

What grated me somewhat were not the themes of the play, or its perhaps piggybacking-use and reference to Ulysses but actually what I heard and read from numerous others who saw this work. Yes, the Company are brash, yes, they are riding a huge wave of success and have big ideas and are experimenting with new forms that are not everyone’s ‘thing’ or within their comfort zone of theatre with a straight narrative. The Company are good, and they know it. But is this really a bad thing? It still means they are good! And when they are good, they are very good.

As You Once Were Now So Once Were We runs on the Peacock stage at the Abbey until 5 February.

Meet the members of the Company in conversation with theatre critic Peter Crawley at the Abbey, post-show, Wednesday 2 February.

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Posted by on January 29, 2011 in Abbey Theatre

 

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From Stage to Street on RTE Radio

From Stage to Street

A new radio series on the history and controversies in Irish theatre is underway on RTE Radio 1. “From Stage to Street” airs on Saturdays, 7.30pm and is hosted by Colin Murphy.

The engaging series focuses on the times when what was happening on the Irish stage reverberated on the streets outside.

From the Playboy riots of 1907 to more recent controversies, the series takes a fresh look at key moments in Irish theatre. Why did Lady Gregory’s nephew lead a drunken chorus of ‘God Save Our King’ at the Abbey in 1907? And why, fifty years later, was Brendan Behan to be found leading a drunken chorus of ‘The Auld Triangle’ outside Dublin’s pocket theatre, the Pike? Was O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars an unpatriotic slur? Who was Anew McMaster?

Find out about the players and passions at stake in the most provocative moments in Irish theatre history, and recapture those moments with the aid of actors and archival gems.  The show presents archival material from various Irish institutions and theatres that has often never been viewed by the public, bringing to life some of the most riotous and turbulent moments seen on and off the Irish stage.
The show can be listened back to here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/stagetostreet/ and you can view archive material, keep up to date and join in the conversation on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FromStageToStreet and Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/stagetostreet

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Culture, History, Theatre, Uncategorized

 

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Colm Toibin’s ‘The Empty Family’

The Empty Family

Moving aside from writing his last few novels, Colm Toibin has produced a new collection of short stories. The form of the short story is incredibly challenging to master as it requires a huge discipline and economy of language from the author to convey a wealth of imagery in a confined space. With his new collection The Empty Family, Colm Toibin has produced a new volume of stories that confirms his mastery of this form to match his reputation with the novel.

The Empty Family is an engrossing collection that is tender yet often heart wrenching in its depiction of families, relationships, places and dreams. The settings move from rural Ireland to Dublin City to the beach-side resorts of Spain and narrow streets of Barcelona, all of which hold a personal affinity to Toibin. With this fact in mind, Toibin holds his personal distance and refuses to be self-serving though still keeping the themes of post-Boom Ireland and Europe to the fore making the work extremely relevant and timely.

Throughout the collection the idea of “the empty family” resonates as families and loved ones drift apart, remain lost to one another with reconciliation coming after decades or sometimes not at all.

The opening story One Minus One depicts a son that must return to his dying mother and to a parish he left behind long ago. This realm of locality and idea of home is forceful in Toibin’s stories, reminding people that in those years of constant building and development that the blocks of the family and elements of human connection were left uncultivated. The families that Toibin describes are now like ghost estates, empty, undeveloped and devoid of life.

In the title story of the collection, the character opens with the line “I have come back here”.

Colm Toibin

 Like an absentee landlord, he ensured the home-place was habitable but still devoid of connection. “Home was two houses that they left me when they died and that I sold at the very height of the boom in this small strange country when prices rose as if they were Icarus, the son of Daedalus” Toibin is unapologetic in his disquiet at the loss of connection to a place and nation by so many Irish when a property and prices were all consuming to a people that long forget themselves.

The New Spain is a searing and powerful piece, further lamenting the loss of connection to its true place and identity, blinded by political failings, familial disputes and monetary greed. Nuria returns to her home after eight years in London to find her locality barely recognisable, people, houses, pathways, politics, government – all foreign to her memory of when she left.

The final story, The Street wraps up the collection with Toibin’s language and characters becoming ever clearer and expertly produced. Emotion and love is, in this collection, often met with violence by others who do not understand or seek to understand but who stand over it with blind defiance. This tension is evident on the shoulders of so many of Toibin’s characters but who yet seek to defy the odds and defy a society which consciously creates a framework which does not allow these relationships to grow or endure without hardship. This flaunts the idea of ‘the family’ leaving it hollow. The family is without love and is left empty.

This collection is one of the best reads of 2010 and will not leave readers disappointed. It is simply compelling from the first page to the last. Perhaps the best Toibin has yet produced.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in Books

 

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