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Category Archives: Theatre

A Closer Look – Drawing Dublin’s Theatres

When you walk past a theatre do you ever stop and take a moment and really look at the building? Is there a particular way a theatre should look? If there were no signage would you instantly know you are outside a theatre? It is an interesting question. Perhaps to truly get a sense of what the facades of Dublin’s theatres form and represent you have to create your own images of these buildings. That is exactly what Kate Brangan did.

“I am a graphic designer and illustrator from Dublin. The theatre drawings were undertaken for a self directed project I did last year. I have worked in the design industry in Dublin for three years and when my most recent job ended last year after the company I worked for went in to liquidation, I found myself looking for work. A three month freelance contact with the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival was advertised and the idea blossomed from there”. Abbey_pic“I was aware that the role was a coveted one I wanted to apply to the position with a unique CV, so I decided I would draw each of the theatres listed on their website (16 in total) and create a booklet that would also display the drawings. Motivated by the deadline that the Festival applications had to be in by, I took a rare sunny evening out last June and cycled a full circle of the city, visiting 13 of the 16 theatres. (I visited the remaining three at different times as they were in the suburbs.) I spent a bit of time at each theatre, taking photos from all angles before cycling on to the next.”

“The reason I mention this at all it that I really want to share what an amazing and enjoyable way it was to spend an evening in Dublin. I have lived here all my life but never before have a reason for such a diverse journey around the city in a concentrated amount of time and one which also forced me to take a proper look at this range of buildings in such a small space. Cycling down through Gardiner Street from The O’Reilly Theatre, to then find myself in the grounds of Trinity taking in the beautiful structure of the Samuel Beckett Theatre within the same 30 minutes was a really refreshing experience! It made me look at my city in a whole new light and this is in turn made me really enjoy and love doing the drawings all the more.”

Talking with Kate there is an obvious sense of an artistic quality and appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of these theatre buildings. Brangan openly admits she has not had a life-long relationship with theatre but explains how the experience opened up some of the spirit and atmosphere that is unique to each theatre space. “I just think it is quite funny how things work out because at the time I considered it (getting the advertised job) crucial and was devastated when I didn’t get it, but the process that got me there, doing the drawings, making the booklet etc. turned out to be much more beneficial in the end. I decided I enjoyed it so much and was pleased with the outcome that I decided I did not want to leave it there. In order to remove the association of the drawings from my failed attempt to get the job, I decided to add in two extra theatres, that were not on the original Festival list, which are in fact my two personal favourites, The Grand Canal Theatre and The Olympia Theatre and from there made up a batch of booklets which I brought down to the Winding Stair Bookshop on Ormond Quay and also to ‘Article’ in the Powerscourt Centre and the booklets of drawings sold out completely.”

“I did surprise myself by realising just how much I enjoyed taking in all the varied detail that the theatres possessed. It would excite me when I arrived at each theatre to find it was in complete contrast to the one I just left, the repetitive horizontal brick work of O’Reilly, the vertical slats of Samuel Beckett, the grand structure of Newman House compared to the humble townhouse on Pearse Street, also to then have so much brickwork involved in the city based theatres compared to the modern structures and angles of the suburban ones. It was just so interesting to be able to pack so much detail into such a small publication. Each theatre has their own unique history and story, and what I think I really love about them is that this is something that is almost unique to theatres. They are all included in the booklet under this umbrella term of theatres but each building is so unique and a stand-alone structure in itself.”

To view the images from Eighteen Theatres please visit Kate Brangan’s website by clicking here

Contact and order details for work by Kate Brangan can also be seen on her website http://katebrangan.com/index.php?/projects/theatres/

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Abbey Theatre, Theatre

 

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Spotlight on Galway for Theatre Festival 2011

Galway Theatre Festival. Image by Paddy D'Arcy

The Irish theatre spotlight falls fully on the West this week as the Galway Theatre Festival has just kicked off. Already with an opening day with sell-out productions under its belt and with many more to follow, Barry Houlihan talks to Director of the Galway Theatre Festival, Ròisìn Stack to discuss the growth of the Festival and what the audience can expect from this festival feast.

Galway native Ròisìn Stack has been associated with the Festival since her days as a performer with Fregoli theatre group in the inaugural festival. Now, as Festival Director, Stack has, since she came on board in 2009, worked and overseen the expansion of the Galway Theatre Festival. The Galway Theatre Festival started in 2008 and featured four days back-to-back of shows in Nun’s Island. In the second year, the Festival expanded into the Town-Hall studio and produced a five day Festival run and has expanded every year since.

To get a festival of this size and variety moving and with momentum, the idea of a festival ‘by the people and for the people’ is very much key to the ethos and spirit of the Festival.

To read the full interview with Ròisìn Stack on writing.ie click here.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Bluepatch Productions: Talking Theatre with Artistic Director Aoife Connolly

Aoife Connolly

Bluepatch Productions staged one of the hits of the 2010 Galway Theatre Festival with their play Memory Palace. Now, with the Festival once again upon us, Artistic Director of Bluepatch Productions, Aoife Connolly, meets with Barry Houlihan to discuss their new work and their aims and focus as a company.

Rushing from an evening rehearsal session to make this interview you can tell Aoife Connolly is in full Theatre Festival mode. For this year’s Festival, Bluepatch Productions are staging their latest work Chasing Butterflies. This will be staged in collaboration with Dragonfly Theatre, In the Garden. As Artistic Director of Bluepatch, Connolly outlines how the company came about and in what direction their hopes and aims are focused.

“Bluepatch started as an idea during my M.A. in Theatre Directing in U.C.D., but starting my own company was always part of the plan to be honest. I was a working actress before I decided to undertake the M.A. and before deciding to focus on directing.  I had always felt I was missing out on something or not contributing enough to the creative process. Becoming a director allowed me that opportunity to shape and create my own work.”

To read the rest of this interview on writing.ie click here

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Walking with Magdalens – “Laundry” at the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Laundry - Anu Productions

Laundry is the latest site-specific work from Anù Productions and features as part of this year’s Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival. Barry Houlihan witnessed this historic play that takes place behind the doors of Dublin’s Magdalen Laundry.

‘Sanctus’. The word is cast in elegant stained glass over a doorway that leads to the inner chapel of the Magdalen Laundry on Seam McDermott Street. The ‘Santcus’ is a song of praise to God and to his angels that in the order of the mass is sung  just prior to the consecration – the act of true faith in the mass. For the thousands of women who walked under this word every morning and evening of their lives spent in the Magdalen Laundry, it offered little respite or comfort.

Laundry is the latest work by Dublin based theatre company Anù Productions. Formed as recently as 2009, the company has quickly proven to be a phenomenon of Irish theatre; staging radically powerful works while specialising in site-specific areas.  While far from a being a ‘play’, this performance is testimony to the stolen childhoods and stolen lives of the ‘Maggies’ who were forced to endure life inside the walls.

To read this review in full from writing.ie please click here

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Culture, Theatre

 

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Tale of the Tape with Aonghus Òg McAnally

Fight Night, a new one-man play written by Gavin Kostick and produced by Rise Productions is currently on an 18-venue tour of Ireland. The play’s star Aonghus Òg McAnally talks to Barry Houlihan and writing.ie on how Fight Night came to be, on shaping new work in Ireland and how for Dan Coyle Jnr, he faces the fight of his life.

What outlines someone as a boxer is much more than physical strength. As any follower of the sport will tell you, it is brains over brawn that counts. The cagier fighter will come out on top. Boxing is a solo sport, no one else to rely on in the ring, no one to back you up against the tide of force coming your way. On arriving at Galway’s Town Hall Theatre Aonghus Òg McAnally talks with Barry Houlihan and writing.ie about the last year in the life of Dan Coyle Jnr and Fight Night.

To read this article in full please click here

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Staging Society – Revolutionary Texts at the Absolut Fringe

For those who may have missed it, this post was published on writing.ie last week in the run up to the ‘Revolutionary Texts’ series of readings and discussion at the Absolut Fringe Festival.

As part of this year’s Absolut Dublin Fringe Festival, a particular series of events is looking at plays that struck a chord with the political and social systems of their times.  The “Revolutionary Texts” series will feature readings of a series of Irish plays from the late 1980’s and 1990’s that are political and directly socially reflective in nature and which today are capable of provoking as much debate as they did when they received their first production.

The programming in the Absolut Fringe programme is right on the nerve of current trends of social discussion and investigation. This is, after all, now the Ireland where economists are the new house-hold names, top-of-the-bill speakers and best-selling authors. Morgan Kelly drew a sell-out crowd at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and Fintan O’Toole spoke to a packed and hushed Town Hall Theatre in Galway in November last year. David McWilliams toured his Outsiders from the Abbey Theatre to various theatres around the country.

For the rest of this article see the ‘Centre Stage’ section of writing.ie here.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Something Borrowed, Something Blue. . .New Voices at the Abbey Theatre

Aideen Howard, Bryan Delaney and the New Playwrights programme group

If the stage of the Abbey Theatre is seen as the heart of the National theatre, then its Literary Department is very much the pulse. Tucked away on the upper floors of the Abbey Street theatre, the Literary Department is very much a haven for new writers, for new stories and for new voices. Aideen Howard, Literary Director, talks to Barry Houlihan and Writing.ie about the work of the Literary Department, about supporting new plays and new playwrights and about finding that new voice in Irish theatre.

For the rest of this interview from writing.ie please click here

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Abbey Theatre, Theatre

 

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Translations: New Adventures in Language

Following the successful original 1980 production and subsequent tour of Translations by Field Day Theatre Company, Tom Paulin stated afterwards in 1983:

“The history of language is a story of possession and dispossession, territorial struggle and the establishment or imposition of a culture.”

Few plays and fewer playwrights have stirred the question of’ Irishness’ and nationhood as much as Translations by Brian Friel. Since it was staged all of thirty years ago, the first production of the fledgling Field Day Theatre Company, it has become synonymous with the Irish obsession with language, connection to home and to the landscape in which that home is situated.

Denis Conway and Aaran Monaghan. Image courtesy of Abbey Theatre

Translations was written in the shadow and direct backdrop of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Friel, himself a Derry-born Catholic, experienced life on the front-line of this turbulent and bloody time. The political nature of Translations has perhaps taken on a life of its own outside of its intended level of intervention. Friel has often set on record that Translations is not a political play but is only about language. While Friel may have chosen to defuse the situation and down play the political and Nationalist fervour the play has come to be associated with, this is not so readily achievable.

It was unthinkable for many in 1980 to foresee an Ireland that would have later see a Downing Street Declaration, a Good Friday Agreement, a power-sharing executive. Now, thirty years since Translations was premiered by Field Day Theatre Company in the imposing Guild Hall in Derry, for so many it is unthinkable how very real the fear, violence and sectarianism was in the North. Today’sIreland is one more attuned to peace but still tragically not immune to violence. The murder of RIC Constable Ronan Kerr and British army soldiers at Mesereence Barracks have provoked an outpouring and committed resolve for peace in the face of those deluded few who insist on failed violent means.

Translations tackled the question of language like no other play in Irish theatre. Friel recognised that while land and connection to home, wherever that may be, can actually be superseded by a truer from of identity: how we express and communicate. While the threat of violence, eviction and also references to the Great Famine hung over the village of Ballybeg, the idea of knowing one’s identity and place through words rather than physical landscape is the true essence and beauty of this play. As Manus taunts his father Hugh following the ‘standardisation’ of the local place-names, he says: “Will you be able to find your way?”

Friel’s contribution to the identity question surrounding ‘Irishness’ on both sides of the border has been explored in depth in Translations but also in his other ‘language’ plays – Making History and Faith Healer. Friel’s use of the colloquial and local dialogue and speech creates entirely real worlds where his characters are reflections of the society and place that has shaped them. Many similarities along this point can be also be seen in the work of playwright Billy Roche, who has become as synonymous with finding a connection to the thoughts and language of the people of his native Wexford as Friel found with people in the North of Ireland.

If by Fintan O’Toole’s definition of a ‘Powerplay’ – a work being political, challenging and reflective of society and identity, then perhaps Translations is the ‘Powerplay’. It is also crucial to consider, is it just a powerplay of it’s own time? And can it still carry such an impact on today’s audiences as it did in 1980’s Derry? Translations does still have much to offer contemporary Ireland. Earlier this year, the visit by Queen Elizabeth II allowed for a mass re-evaluation of the colonial relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. Our own ability to recognise this visit as one head of state visiting a global equal as opposed to a colonial satellite was key to the mature and considered welcome Queen Elizabeth received. Recent revisions of works such as the Playboy of the Western World in a version by Roddy Doyle and Bisi Adigan put that classic story on a modern footing in contemporary Dublin and explored how immigration was shaping Ireland and the actions, thoughts and words of its people. Also works by The Company, including Who is Fergus Kilpatrick and As You Are Now So Once Were We, go to new levels in exploring questions of connection to place, city, country and the individual. The Company took this challenge to completely new territory, moving outside of the traditional literary text and engaged technologies, forms and ideas that turn the questions of place and language on its axis.

Translations will rightly be a classic of it’s time and also any time. Its original staging in the Guild Hall in Derry will be remembered as being one the most powerful symbols of how theatre can reflect and present society as well as crossing boundaries that traditional communication cannot. It is a fantastic opportunity to see the powerplay once again on the national stage. It also affords us the opportunity to consider the next generation of powerplays and guess at where they will come from and what they will focus on. As Hugh says in the closing scenes of Translations; “We must never cease renewing those images; because when we do, we fossilise.”

Translations is on the Abbey Theatre Stage until Saturday 13th August. www.abbeytheatre.ie

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Abbey Theatre, Culture, Theatre

 

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The Magic of Misterman

Misterman

Seen through the eyes of loner Thomas Magill, the imagined town of Inisfree is a heinous sin-ridden place where he is moral judge and eternal juror of his neighbours. The Black-Box Theatre becomes the broken-down remnant of the town of Inisfree and also of Thomas Magill’s mind and soul. The play is a frantic and sinister retelling of Magill’s life where all who he interacts with or has some sort of relationship with is retold and relived on loop through the recordings he has made with them. 

The play opens with a farcical scene where Murphy is driven to distraction by an incessant Doris Day song. For Thomas, this is an early indication that what he is not able to control and correct outs the darker recesses of his personality.

Thomas, in his purgatorial world, repeats verbatim the recorded conversations with his beloved mother and relives the encounters with those sinners he meets on his daily walk around Inisfree. He half-runs, half-stumbles his way from tape player to tape player where each plays a conversation from the past. These aural memories become all the more visible through Cillian Murphy truly astounding performance. In such a gruelling one-man performance Murphy is simply outstanding, skipping seamlessly through a host of characters, accents and personalities, none more visceral and provocative than Thomas Magill himself.

Thomas keeps a diary of sins of those he meets – a list that includes profanity, gluttony, debauchery and uncleanliness. As Magill considers himself as being next to godliness, he is also canonised as being saintly by his neighbours and simultaneously mocked and jeered for his devotion to his God and also to his mother. I would consider Magill one of the most sinister characters I have encountered on any stage. Enda Walsh has created a man who has visions of his own deism in the face of the spiritual and moral ineptitude on his compatriots. He is, as Thomas himself says, the only kitten in a town full of dogs, or indeed also a vision of Ireland, a broken nation sinking into the sea that supports it, a-la the image on Thomas’ father’s grave.

But what exactly is it about Thomas that startles so much. Are we afraid of his temper, his subdued anger and violence that simmers and bursts through to the surface? Are we afraid of his devotion to his religion? Or perhaps is it his religion itself we are afraid of? A combination of all these questions are gelled by Enda Walsh into this enigmatic character, a self-declared avenging angel that is so forcefully portrayed by Murphy.

Thomas is a powerless individual who strives to attain what it is exactly he cannot get: power, respect and recognition for his efforts to save those around him from drowning in their own sin. He is constantly told what to do and where to go, be it by his mother, by those around him and also crucially as he is ordered to do by the catechism he preaches and by the God he worships. Thomas is an unsettling individual: to those neighbours around him he is easily forgettable, little more than a passing nod or a wave in the morning. He is anonymous. He is nameless. He is Misterman.

The soundtrack is sublimely designed and expertly staged by Gregory Clarke and Donnacha Dennehy. The dialogue that eerily is only one-way: between Thomas and a tape-recorded voice, echoes around the industrial wasteland that is Magill’s own mind. The set design by Jamie Varton uses every available inch of the expansive Black-Box and is ably filled by Murphy.

With Enda Walsh himself directing the play seldom dips below a virtuoso piece of enthralling theatre, all leading to a striking and startling final scene. As powerful a scene so portrayed by Murphy you will not readily see on stage too often. It is a fitting tribute to the collaboration between Walsh and Murphy, whose personal touches and input into the play and its development from its earlier 1999 incarnation (then produced by Corcadorca Theatre Company in Cork) makes this a truly unique and special experience. If you want to see a summer blockbuster this year, then it has to be Misterman. It runs for the rest of the coming week (18 – 24 Jul) but is long sold out. Any return tickets are now recognised as legal currency, trading as gold-dust in Galway at the moment. If you have tickets, hold on to them tightly!

www.galwayartsfestival.com

http://www.landmarkproductions.ie/

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Macnas bring the noise, the brilliance and fierce beauty

This Fierce Beauty

If it’s possible for a single group or event to sum up the spirit of the Galway Arts Festival, to really show how it connects to the city, to the West of Ireland and to its people and many visitors, then you need not look past the Macnas parade. This year’s parade entitled This Fierce Beauty attracted huge crowds as the Macnas madness and mayhem snaked its way from the Spanish Arch up Quay Street, Shop Street and along the Salmon Weir Bridge as if heading its way home to the Festival Big Top which loomed and glowed in a blue hue in the Galway dusk. The atmosphere was simply incredible. It was a purely joyous event for the thousands who cheered on the many giant beasts, mystical creatures, drummers, dancers and general unrestrained crazies.

Artistic director Noeline Kavanagh has created something truly special for the Galway Arts Festival which has for long now been recognised as just that – special. The crowd was buoyant and in real festival mood as the smoke and flares that signalled the start of the parade. Winged dragons inspired by Da Vinci, giant dogs apparently representing Shane MacGowan and Patti Smith, a huge seated rhinoceros glowering down at the people represented the poet William Blake but perhaps most striking of all was The Girl, an 18 foot tall walking effigy of hope. With her billowing hair and blinking eyes, you felt like you would blindly follow this girl and her crew wherever they were headed. With an unrecognisable Paul Fahy, dressed as a 10 foot tall navigator at the head of the parade, wherever the uncharted waters ahead may lay, we all could do well to folllow Macnas’ lead.

Click the link below for images, video and just a hint of what it was like to see “This Fierce Beauty”.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/56519887@N08/sets/72157627222072112/

http://www.flickr.com//photos/56519887@N08/sets/72157627222072112/show/

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Culture, Theatre, Uncategorized

 

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