King of the Castle

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Dublin Theatre Festival: King of the Castle – Gaiety Theatre, Dublin  

Writer: Eugene McCabe

Director: Garry Hynes

There is always excitement in the air when Druid stage a new production. For the 2017 Dublin Theatre Festival they are presenting Eugene McCabe’s play King of the Castle at the Gaiety Theatre. Often described as an unsung Irish classic King of the Castle has the potential to be an excellent addition to the festival programme.

Written in 1964 there is something about Eugene McCabe’s play that makes it feel as though it could be much older. The themes of whether to leave Ireland and try one’s luck in Canada or elsewhere, or whether to stay and try to write out one’s name on the mountains is one that reverberates throughout Irish history.

In this domestic rural drama we meet ‘Scober’ McAdam and his much younger wife Tressa in the middle of a working day. Married for three years their relationship is childless and frustrated. ‘Scober’ has become successful through greed and exploitation. Slowly gathering up land until he is now master of the big house. He is now King of the area. But he finds himself King of an eroding way of life. Good men are leaving and women are not automatically stuck still in the place they were born. It is nearing the end of the era of the ‘big house’ dominating the local economy and social life.

When one farm worker, Maguire, asks Tressa ‘what is a woman for?’ it sets in motion a series of events that takes the audience into the core of this marriage and shine a light on the uncertainty of masculinity, sex and marriage in a changing world. For a man used to being able to buy anything he wants, will ‘Scober’ be able to turn his situation into an easily solved financial exchange?

At its core there is something very sad and quite savage about King of the Castle that provides grist for the plays dramatic narrative. Celebrated director Garry Hynes argues that it ‘is very much a play of its time but the central themes still resonate today, being steeped in a world of patriarchy and religion that invades the personal and the intimate’.

Runs Until 15th October 2017 | Image: Contributed

All Honey

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Dublin Fringe Festival: All Honey, The New Theatre, Dublin

 

Writer: Ciara Elizabeth Smyth

Director: Jeda de Bri

The Sad Strippers Theatre group were last seen at Smock Alley’s Scene and Heard Festival, where their production of Pacemaker was the funniest 30 minutes this reviewer has ever seen on stage. All Honey is a longer production at an hour long and is helping to close the Dublin Fringe Festival 2017.

Ru and Luke are throwing a house warming party (well, it’s actually an apartment warming party as others are quick to point out). It is clear from the off that the evening is not going to be a smooth one. Ru’s best friend Mae thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her and plans to confront him that night. Soon however she is persuaded otherwise. This proves to be unfortunate. The hilarious and somewhat awful Val has managed to turn up without being invited. It is not long before she has found the gin and fireworks are about to explode. Add into this mix oblivious and obnoxious Barry for a night of horror and hilarity. All of the action takes place in a brightly decorated box room where people pop in and out for secret conversations and confrontations.

The writing is quick witted, smart and funny. The hour flows by as the audience are drawn into the complex love lives unfolding before them. All Honey is surprising and involving; there is no knowing what will come next. What is assured is that this is a brilliant hour of comedy from five actors who work excellently together to delivery this one of a kind script.

Runs until 23 September 2017 | Image: Contributed

End Of.

First written for The Reviews Hub

DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: End Of. – The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin

Writer: Seanan McDonnell

Director: Conor Hanratty

The Gutter Bookshop is nestled behind Smock Alley Theatre at the bottom of Cow’s Lane, an area of Dublin on the edge of Temple Bar, that is crammed with cake shops and boutique jewellery stores. It is the perfect place to set a play. One of the benefits of the Fringe Festival is that small scale plays such as End Of. are given the chance to show off what they can do in unusual or different locations.

End Of., a play by writer Seanan McDonnell, makes excellent use of its setting. The story is set in the bookshop itself. The characters move around the counter and boxes of books as if they have been doing so for years. It feels natural and is a clever use of space to further a story. Near the end the setting becomes increasingly significant. Without giving spoilers, the production team have managed to do wonders with the space provided.

The characters spend their lives with books. They are surrounded by the summation of human knowledge and experience. This becomes overlooked though as an argument at the beginning of the working day begins to escalate. Shiv, played by Charlene Craig, and Drew, played by Will Irvine, are getting ready for the day when they are interrupted by Ciaran, their new boss played by Damian Gildea. Drew has always aspired to be an actor but life has not gone to plan and he finds himself working year in year out in the shop. Shiv still has hope of a different life although her academic history is less than inspiring. When they discover something unusual has made its way to the counter Shiv is full curiosity, calling Ciaran to take part in her excitement. Drew however is sceptical. As they argue their points become increasingly polarised, angry and personal.

Written during the recent political changes in America and Europe End Of. skewers the violence of modern disagreements in a humorous and interesting way. This was a pleasant evening and another valuable addition to the Fringe Festival programme.

Runs until 24 September 2017 | Image: Contributed

Owen Wingrave

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DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Owen Wingrave – O’ Reilly Theatre, Dublin

Composer: Benjamin Britten

Director: Tom Creed
Conductor: Stephen Barlow

Owen Wingrave, which was composed during the height of the Vietnam War, questions whether pacifism is an act of strength or cowardice. By deciding to step away from a life of war and conflict he is also walking away from everything that his family have stood for; honour through courage, defending Queen and Country no matter the cost. More than this it is also about family. The audience is engendered to feel sympathy for Owen as his family turn on him. The weight of his past and his family history bears down on Owen as he breaks away, deciding upon his own belief system even though they conflict so dramatically with those he grew up with.

This may not be the most obvious choice of opera, however, it is an intriguing addition to the Fringe Festival programme. As Owen becomes increasingly isolated the speed of the production increases. The second half flies by, building in intensity to its tragic climax.

The back wall is designed to look like an Army barracks. The soldiers wear green fatigues that give the story a modern touch. At one point a British flag is projected on the back wall. It flutters before disappearing. Although the staging and lighting are relatively simple it is used to maximum effect. Plinths are brought onto the stage and statues of birds of prey placed on top. They are intimidating and dominate the stage. This is a great use of symbolism on stage that both enhances the storyline and also makes it easier to follow for those less familiar with opera.

The cast and orchestra all perform well, however special mention should go to Christopher Cull as Spencer Coyle who carries off the complex part with nuance, and Benjamin Russell who plays Owen with aplomb.

Hopefully, this production will return to Dublin soon.

Runs until 16 September 2017 | Image: Contributed

Close to the Sun

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Dublin Fringe Festival: Close to the Sun – Smock Alley, Dublin  

 

Writer: Philip Doherty

Director: Stephen Darcy

Is it ever possible to outrun your past?

The play begins with a story. Three workmen with Irish accents introduce the audience to an old Irish curse. A family have been plagued by alcohol, devotion so deep it turns in on itself, the dark thoughts of jealousy and confusion and the bloody release of an early death. The curse runs through the generations. When we meet Colin, an Irish emigrant to Australia, he is trying to live a life as far away from this torment as possible. With his sweetheart Sophie, they are planning their wedding when out of the blue his older brother Rory turns up on his doorstep. His arrival throws everything into disarray as our couple must face themselves and each other, to work through the lies to a place of honesty.

Close to the Sun also explores the relationship between the Irish diaspora and ‘home’. For Oisin, soon to move back to Cavan, with his children who were born in Australia he will soon find out whether the place he once left still exists and if his new family can make a life there. It is also through him that the cast realise that they have been drawn to other Irish abroad, finding it difficult to find a way in to a new culture. They are a part of ‘the lost generation’ who left their homeland and then experienced the dislocation that comes with this. For Colin though his marriage to Sophie could be about to change all of that. Played by Mary Murray she is a surprising and sparky character. Toni O’Rourke, who was wonderful in Donagh Humphrey’s All That We Found Here, features as Sophie’s niece and confident Alexis. Each member of the cast holds their own. The play feels very cohesive as it glides from scene to scene. Close to the Sun is alternately funny, poignant and surprising. It is a thoroughly entertaining addition to the Dublin Fringe Festival 2017.

Runs Until 17th September 2017 | Image: Contributed

Everything Not Saved

DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Everything Not Saved – Project Arts Centre

Devised by: MALAPROP with Dylan Coburn Gray

Director: Claire O’Reilly

Everything Not Saved is this year’s Fringe Festival presentation from MALAPROP theatre company. In 2015 they were awarded Spirit of Fringe award for LOVE+ so expectations are high for their new show. They tackle the big subjects through three very different scenes. As the play begins a voice speaks out over the theatre as the words spoken are projected for all to see. From the beginning, we are asked to question our memory and how our thoughts and ideas change over time. By remembering someone or an event we change it. This is shown in the first scene. A former couple (who are not named), one of whom is a photographer, have very different ideas of how their relationship began to come to an end. The photographer keeps a photo of her former partner that reminds her of the shyness and later blossoming of her now friend. The other woman however, sees this image as an argument. She didn’t want it to be taken and the fact that it still exists highlights the different way they view not just their past together but also their key values. The topic of memory and the telling of history are particularly important at the moment. Many people in the audience will see illusions to current politics and the shattering of a set narrative that all parties can agree upon.

MALAPROP make use of interesting staging, that allows them to change scene easily within the relatively small stage (the performance is staged on the Cube stage at the Project Arts Centre) and is supplemented by audio visuals throughout. The play is frequently funny and sparky. The voiceover elicits laughs from the audience early on. The penultimate scene is powerful and unexpected. It may have been better to close the play here. Queen Elizabeth II, the police, a dancing Rasputin all feature in the abstract and thoroughly enjoyable Everything Not Saved.

Bottlenote

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DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Bottlenote – 13 North Great Georges Street, Dublin

Bottlenote have taken over one of Dublin’s hidden gems. 13 North Great Georges Street is an old tenement building that has fallen into disrepair. While every other building near it seems to be in perfect condition number thirteen feels as though it hasn’t been touched in the past one hundred years. It is a great choice of venue. Immediately the audience is presented with something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Bottlenote are a collective of Irish musicians, six of whom have joined together to form Power of Two, a night of improvisory music supplemented by the surroundings and acoustics of the Georgian building and soft focused lighting. Much of the building is in darkness with only the musicians highlighted. Each room has a different colour theme. On the ground floor, with the outside world shut out, electronic music with purple and blue lights dominate the room. There are no chairs for the audience. Instead one follows the music from room to room, viewing the musicians at work, a little like a living art exhibition.

The performers are David Donohoe and Justin Carroll on synths, David Lacey on percussion, Sean MacErlain on clarinet, Shane Latimer modular musician, and Matthew Noone on a sarod. In the 1950s a working-class family lived on the second floor. At night, the young daughter would look up at the ceiling, listening to the ceili dancing above. This performance brings that feeling of wonder alive in a truly unique and interactive way.

Bottlenote fits in well with the Fringe Festival ethos and provides a great opportunity to discover something new and different.