FRNKNSTN

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FRNKNSTN – Peacock, Dublin

Writer: Michael West

Director: Muireann Ahearn

“I am not the monster. I am Frankenstein”

Ever since its publication two hundred years ago Frankenstein has been a hit with theatre-goers, being adapted for the stage within five years stage and devoured by the public. This is not surprising. The themes of science, creation, the supernatural and the limits of man’s power and influence are timeless and find a new audience with each generation. A new interpretation from the mind of writer Michael West that interrogates the idea of identity has taken to the Peacock Stage in Dublin.

Before the play began Louis Lovett, who plays each character, walked in front of the stage, down to the theatre goers. While waiting for stragglers he began to count, chat and use his voice to make the audience laugh. This was an excellent touch that eased the audience into the production. He tells a story of when he nearly drowned in the cold water off the coast of Oregon. The allusions to the beginning of the novel take the night from friendly closeness into the drama and electricity of Frnknstn. Subtle and atmospheric the stage darkens and gradually so does the soundscape; embracing the gothic nature of the novel.

Lovett is the only man on stage. He moves from the precocious, attractive, young scientist to the older man, tormented by desire, power, and fear, before slipping once more into the character of the monster. His front teeth blackened, shirt open, movements angry and yet almost childlike. He changes in front of our eyes. A tilted mirror on the back wall emphasises the way in which Frankenstein tilts from one character to the other until we are no longer sure who he is. The stage is uncluttered and gloomy, props are used sparingly.

The monster is commonly mistakenly called Frankenstein, the doctor’s name. The script plays on this, as the lines between the two begin to blur. It works particularly well as a one man show. When Frankenstein feels he has almost godlike power to create life, and in time to end life, using science to place himself above those around him, who really is the monster? The debate of nature versus nurture rages as much now as it did in the early 1800s and is allowed room to breathe in this production.

Sound effects are used very well throughout and Lovett is able to change and manipulate his voice for humour, strangeness and danger as required. Lovett is a consummate performer, at times electric. He is absorbed into the story until he can no longer be seen but the characters of Frankenstein and the monster have taken over.

Runs until 1stSeptember 2018 | Image: Ros Kavanagh

Arachnophilia

Arachnophilia, The New Theatre – Dublin

Writer: Aidan Fitzmaurice
Director: Sarah Bradley
Having friends or family over to stay can be a fraught experience at times as ones house is taken over by another persons habits and demands. It turns out this is never more so than when the guest is a spider, or a Chilean rose tarantula to be precise. Not only that but it is apparently a well known phenomena that if a spider comes to stay ones spider sense (sorry) will soon be tingling and the day will be defined by feeding times and ukulele playing. And that is how is is in Aidan Fitzmaurice’s quirky comedy drama Arachnophilia.
Conor and Alice have been together for five years and it is time to start asking the big questions. The only problem with this is that Conor thinks they are having a conversation about children. Alice however thinks they are considering separating. When facing this new stage in life how is Conor to prepare; to lay the groundwork for a possible new family? Like many people he thinks that a pet will be a good idea. Whereas most people would come home with a puppy or a cat, Conor comes home with a spider. When Alice wants to know how a spider could possibly prepare one for having children she finds a quirk in Conor’s personality that had never shown itself before.
Alone with his spider Conor descends into a strange kind of obsession that quickly takes over his life (and work life). What he doesn’t know is that his pet can hear and understand everything he says. Bellhop lives in his glass box with his exoskeleton for company. They (yes the exoskeleton can move and talk) are a web weaving, game playing couple that adapt quite well to the idea of being spiders trapped in a glass with only a human being for company. That is until the singing starts. And the terrible movies. And hang on … what’s with the wasp without a sting?
Hugely entertaining Arachnophilia somewhat defies description. Full of laughs and spider related puns it has a touch of the absurd but this only adds to the comedy. It would be great to have the chance to slip into the mind of the writer as he created the premise. On Saturday The New Theatre was packed, with people standing at the back of the theatre in order to see the show. The set was very well done with Conor’s home life and Bellhop’s split down the middle; as they constantly interact but never manage to communicate.
Arachnophilia is charming and unusual. Full of laughs but some heart too this was an enjoyable and one of a kind play.
P.S. For those terrified of spiders, like myself, there are no creepy crawlies to be afraid of (unless a talking exoskeleton debating class war is not your thing).
Cast: Caoimhe Mulcahy, Harry Butler, Ian Dunphy, Meg Healy and Tony Canwell.
Presented Octopussouptheatre.

The Comedy of Errors

First Written for The Reviews Hub

The Comedy of Errors, Smock Alley Theatre

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Liam Halligan

“What? Did I marry her in my sleep?”

Two sets of twins separated at birth, a nun, a possible execution, a bondsman with a baton, a goldsmith lacking in gold, an over-enthusiastic kitchen maid, a wife, a mistress, infidelity, a tempest, demonic possession and a subversive sister. It can only be Shakespeare. One of the strangest and most farcical of his comedies is bought to the stage by Dublin’s Youth Theatre.

It is a wise choice of play; offering the actors plenty of opportunities to flex their comedy muscles. The Comedy of Errors is also particularly timely. The themes of separation, walls, and borders seem to resonate with today’s audience.

Foreigners are not welcome in Ephesus as a result of a trade war with the neighbouring Syracuse. This leads to the event that bookends the play: the impending execution of Syracusian trader Egeon, played by Tristan Spellman Molphy. He is the father of twins. When a poor woman gave birth to twins on the same day as his wife, he purchased them to be slaves to his sons. Shortly after this they undertook a sea voyage but were hit by a tempest. Wife and husband, brother and brother were separated. When Antipholus of Syracuse, along with his slave Dromio, goes in search of his missing family the stage is set for a great series of mishaps, farce, and family.

Ciara Cochrane and Penny Morris, playing the two different Dromio’s have many of the best lines and provide great comedy moments throughout; using their words and their bodies to elevate the language. Similarly, Rhys Coleman-Travers and Kit Geraghty, playing the two Antipholus’s, seem to be having great fun with the parts. The scenes in which Antipholus of Ephesus is arrested and finds himself embroiled in the confusion of mistaken identity is full of farce and quick action. As he loses his temper and is thought to be mad, or possessed by a demon, he becomes increasingly angry and increasingly funny. As the play accelerates the humour builds into a wonderfully funny denouement. The play ends on a final touching moment.

Under musical director Jack Cawley the musicians added atmosphere and drama to the production, being careful to never overpower the actors. Standing on a balcony to the left of the stage it was a wise move to have live music supplement the action on stage.

The Comedy of Errors ends with reconciliation, providing hope for our troubled times.

Runs until 18 August 2018 | Image: Contributed

The Shaughraun

First Written for The Reviews Hub

The Shaughraun – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: Dion Boucicault

Director: Clare Maguire

The Shaughraun is a melodrama by Irish playwright and actor Dion Boucicault. In the small village of Suil-a-beg, County Sligo, mystery, intrigue and drama unfold as a vast range of absurd, exciting and interconnected events set the scene for a night of fun and frivolity. It is difficult to introduce the plot in a few sentences as so much happens, but The Shaughraun is an excellent night’s entertainment and it is a joy to see it being revived at Dublin’s ‘oldest and newest theatre’.

First performed in 1874 the play was an instant success. It was traditional to use pantomimes to address difficult social topics and in a way, Boucicault does the same here. Lack of female autonomy, a housing crisis, intercultural differences, particularly between the British and Irish, bubble underneath the comedy and as director Clare Maguire shows are as relevant today as they were when first penned. As noted in the programme “the melodramatic themes of the play: faith, hope, romantic love and the love of one’s country are set against greed, betrayal, deception, and abuse of power. They are the required themes of melodrama but Boucicault deploys them to cut across national and class boundaries and to give his characters depth and colour”.

One highlight of the play was the relationship between Clare and Captain Molineaux. The attraction is instant however their different backgrounds mean that love doesn’t run smooth. Clare is fierce, defiant and patriotic so it is a surprise when a charming British soldier walks into her life and takes a shine to her. There are many moments of amusement to be found from Captain Molineaux who is consistently bemused by “you Irish” and their different ways. Well acted and drawn out this relationship helps to steer the action, subvert stereotypes and cuts to the heart of the themes of the play.

In future work needs to be done on voice projection and enunciation, to make sure that the Sligo accent (which is well done) does not prevent the listener from taking in every word. This is also true for the singing. Although the musical interludes are enjoyable they would be easier to follow if the actors could project to the back of the theatre. Unusually the characters introduced themselves at the beginning which was a nice touch.

Although arguably old-fashioned The Shaughraun had the audience laughing and brought comedy to the underlying social issues. The Shaughraun is wild, witty (as are the characters!) and fast-paced. Full of twists, turns and surprises, and a good versus evil story line The Shaughraun is farcical and riotous fun with a heart.

Runs until 1 September 2018 | Image: Contributed

Somewhere Else

somehwere else

Somewhere Else. The Players Theatre, Trinity College Dublin

 

Have you ever been searching for something else? Somewhere else? Maybe if one puts on a tie and finds success, has a family and a home then everything will come together. Or will the relentless need to keep searching, to be elsewhere, and always be in search of success keep going until the movement is all there is?

“I must leave this place. Find another. A different place altogether.” Gene has decided he can no longer stay. He can no longer be at home. Through the dreams, the rubbish, the cities, the worlds below and above. Gene will leave this place to find another. To find Somewhere Else. Or Else.”

The absurdity of modern life is brought to life in the dark confines of The Players Theatre, at Trinity College Dublin. Presented by Gorgeous Theatre Somewhere Else is a remarkable piece of new writing. They have created something different and interesting. There are few plays like this being put together at the moment which is a real shame.

We follow Gene on his search for Somewhere Else. At times the city lights are behind him, at others he is playing happy families before his house falls out of order. He is frequently accompanied on his journey by the character of Rubbish, played by Tonya Swayne. There are shades of Beckett and the theatre of the absurd in the styling and use of language. Their influences are apparent as shades of Jacques Lecoq and Commedia Dell’Arte shine through the production. This is something that could easily go wrong but the production has been bought together by the capable hands of writer and director Ciaran Treanor.

The physicality is the stand out of this production. Tanja Abazi, as Childish, and Emma Brennan, as Child, seem to have limitless energy. At first, they cut through the back of the stage. Introducing themselves by movement. As children they play duck, duck, goose and annoy their long – suffering parents with their constant energy and need for attention. They are able to tell a story and make the audience chuckle without words.

Noel Cahill as Gene commands the stage. He is the centre of attention for nearly the whole running time. His character, dressed in a suit and off to an interview may be unravelling. Will he have success? Or will the boundaries between real and unreal blur until they are no longer visible?

Saoirse Sine appears to be a vision in white. The woman at the bus stop, the movie star, the dream to catch hold off. A star falls to earth and she is living with Gene and their two children. Slowly she disintegrates. The story of her life is written on her face as she smiles at her family and yet seems to feel despair when alone with the audience. Does she have the same need as Gene to find somewhere else? If only they could find that place together.

There is a good use of music and sound throughout, particularly the recurring use of Ella Fitzgerald’s Dream A Little Dream Of Me, and the music is very effecting over the closing scenes.

Somewhere Else is far more than one would expect from a new play by a young theatre company and one looks forward to more work from them.

Runs Until 18th August 2018.

Presented by Gorgeous Theatre.

Writer and director: Ciaran Treanor.

Actors: Tanjs Abazi, Emma Brennan, Noel Cahill, Saoirse Siné, Tonya Swayne.

Sally Rooney Conversation’s With Friends

conversation's with friends

Short Review

Sally Rooney’s first novel focuses on Frances as she comes into herself as a woman and a writer. A performance poet, student, and ‘not quite writer’ who is drawn into a world of art and culture by an older photographer and essayist Melissa. Alongside her former lover and second half Bobbi, Frances’ life is disturbed by the entrance of Nick, Melissa’s husband and Frances’ future paramour. A summer spent in the continental sun and in Dublin’s culture hotspots Conversation’s With Friends interrogates class, culture and conversation with wit, intelligence and precision. Rarely captured in literature Rooney depicts a post – crash Dublin that has dispensed with religion and is aware of its fragile roots. This was the book that broke me out of a reading drought. Absorbing, thought provoking and enjoyable Conversation’s With Friends is worthy of the praise lavished on it and demonstrates Rooney’s precocious writing talent.

Punt

punt the new theatreWriters: Pius McGrath and Tara Doolan

Actor: Pius McGrath

An Honest Arts Production

 

Punt has been receiving excellent reviews since its arrival in Dublin off the back of a successful run at the Limerick Fringe 2017, so it was with interest that on a sweltering Friday evening, theatre goers sought shelter in the cool cavern of The New Theatre.

One of Jack’s earliest memories is of placing a bet at Listowel races and, amazingly, winning. This special treat, shared with his uncle Jim turned out to be the beginning of a lifetime love affair for the small town boy. The excitement and electricity of a day at the races captured the six year old and this recreational, communal activity soon became something much more dangerous. By the time Jack is off to the study in the big city he is preoccupied with making it to high stakes poker games and using his winnings to buy his way into bigger and bigger games.

At the same time internet gambling takes off. How many of us have been tempted by the free cash offers to place a bet and watch the wheel spin? Gambling becomes something meaningful and powerful in Jack’s life as it takes the space of family and former aspirations. Alongside this Ireland is booming and cash is flowing freely.

McGraph uses his body throughout the tell the story. Throwing himself about the stage with abandon and slipping into his memories and other characters with ease. When McGraph takes on the persona his best friend the comedy abounds as his thick accent and unique turn of phrase propel the narrative forward. It takes skill and confidence to be able to pull off a one man play: to hold court, dominate the stage and keep viewers interested with only your body and words. McGraph wears his character lightly. With just a chair, table and black background on which the words “bet now” flash behind him McGraph is alone on the stage as Jack becomes more and more isolated.

Punt delves into the intergenerational nature of addiction and how the big business of gambling is all around us. When I moved to Dublin it was a surprise to see how many betting shops lined the streets. Although with hope being difficult to find in these economically tough times it is not surprising that the momentary burst of optimism that Jack finds in every race, in every win, manages to sustain him for so long.

Skilfully written by McGraph and Doolan Punt is careful to avoid moralising and instead tackles the big issues through the individual story. It is through Jack that we experience the rise and fall of an addict, and it is with feeling that we watch his decline; resisting the urge to shout at the stage every time he takes the wrong step. Backed up by well timed visuals and sound effects it is easy to be carried along on this journey from hope to despair. The ending is powerful and well done.

With Punt The New Theatre continues to champion new work by promising Irish theatre makers and proves again that some of the best nights of theatre are to be found behind a socialist bookshop in Temple Bar.

Runs until July 14th 2018.