Appropriate

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Appropriate, Dublin Fringe Festival 2018, Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Dublin

Writer: Sarah-Jane Scott

Director: Paul Meade

‘Planning a wedding in Ireland is like preparing for war.’

Scott enters from a door to the left. Climbing onto the stage she drops her wedding bouquet on an empty chair in the middle of the stage. A white carpet is underneath; otherwise, the stage is bare. The focus stays on Scott for the entirety of the play.

Sarah-Jane Scott plays Sorcha. At first, she looks like a runaway bride. It soon emerges that she has slipped out of her own wedding reception and seems to be taking stock of her life; considering who she is and what she wants for the very first time. Her life to this point has always gone as it should. It has been perfectly appropriate. She has just married the man she already wanted, a former county hurling player who has always been kind to her. Surrounded by her mum and friends this should be the best day of her life. Sure, isn’t that what she has always planned. But if it is, why does she feel like hiding away?

Appropriate taxes the audience from Sorcha’s debs, where she saw off the competition in an entirely unorthodox manner to nab her man to the day they said ‘I do’. The journey is frequently hilarious, with Sorcha’s strong accent and turn of phrase bringing the audience out of their seat. Appropriate is the ideal play for a short break from the frequent difficulty of day-to-day life. The character of Sorcha is fully rounded. She sounds like a friend of a friend that you went to school with and fills her friends and acquaintances with Facebook envy, with her well-ordered life. She is a GAA girlfriend with a husband – to – be who is well respected in their rural community and a best friend who would tear strips off anyone who upset her.

Scott embodies the character and this play is clearly her creation as she takes control from beginning to end and makes the stage, and the audience, her own. With the rest of her life stretching out like railway tracks Sorcha has to make a decision. Will she choose the comfortable life that she has established for herself; being the queen bee of her small town, or will she take the road less travelled, and try to find a different her in the expanding future?

Appropriate has come out of Fishamble’s A Show in a Bagscheme that has created some wonderful productions over the years. This show is another example of how this programme and the nurturing environment of the Fringe Festival can bring talent to the fore.

| Image: Contributed

The Diary of Maynard Perdu

The Diary of Maynard Perdu, Smock Alley Theatre – Dublin

Writer: Billy Roche

Director: Billy Roche

Peter McCamley takes to the stage as the one and only Maynard Perdu. Over the course of the next one-and-a-half hours he takes the audience on a journey through the exceptional life of Maynard Perdu; something of a dandy.

He lives in a world of the fantastic, in the mirrored, burlesque world of the Spiegeltent where fantasy and illusion reign supreme. He creates an imagined life for himself and sets out to live it to the full. But how much is real and how much is an invention? He is a showman, turning the stage into a carnival, he is a ship’s lookout preparing for a show, he is a man who has women fighting over him, giving up their comfortable lives to follow him into a life of adventure and excitement. He shifts shape and becomes a new person whenever the need arises. This process is entertaining as McCamley’s moves across the stage in this one-man show. He displays great ability as he switches characters, accents, manoeuvres props and turns the stage into his own.

The layers of Maynard Perdu become visible and begin to be stripped back when he returns to his birthplace and finds himself in surroundings that are both familiar and strange. The script, by writer and musician Billy Roche, plays around with the idea of identity, and whether a person is who they were born as or who they make themselves into. Truth and certainty slip through one’s fingers like Maynard’s fine words and intricate tales.

Particular attention has been paid to the props and staging, and stage manager Aileen Donohoe and assistant stage manager Sadhbh Cullinana should be applauded for the amount of thought and effort that went into creating the set. Atmospheric and cosy when needed, the stage can also become the scene of dramatic disagreements, imprisonment, the start of a new life and more. This is done with remarkable dexterity.

McCamley changes clothes throughout. As he does his character changes also. He begins in bright, luxurious leather and silk but the play ends on a very different note. Wearing black and having to face up to the reality of his new life, his clothing and the background devoid of colour and light, the play ends on a somewhat sad and tender note. The lines between reality and illusion look like they might have been redrawn but where does that lead our Maynard Perdu? Having experienced loss and confusion a new man stands before us, perhaps with one more story to tell.

Closing with a standing ovation The Diary of Maynard Perduis an intricate play that as it unwinds takes the audience into the mind and heart of a wandering soul.

Image: Contributed

FRNKNSTN

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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

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.

Electric

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Electric – Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

Writer: Ali Hardman

Director: Clare Maguire

On balance it is fair to argue that the opening night of Ali Hardman’s new play Electric, is more enjoyable than a trip to Electric Picnic. Although this may say something about the lack of shower facilities at most festivals, it also highlights how fun and entertaining Electric is.

One of the standout points of the play is the level of attention to detail and the set design. When the audience are collecting their tickets, each person is issued with an Electric wrist band, excellently designed and eye catching. While waiting for the doors to open glitter face paint is also available for free. Most audience members have blue glitter wings winking in the dark. Starting the production in this way was a pleasant surprise that put people in a good mood and helped to foster a festival atmosphere. This is enhanced when the theatre doors open and the two actors, Hardman and Roe, have already taken to the stage and are dancing away to the pulsing music familiar to all festival goers.

Joni and Scarlett have both set out on an adventure at Electric Picnic. Scarlett, played by Ali Hardiman, is a privately educated young woman from Dalkey who has been pushed into the festival by her mam. With a dislike of dirt, her friends and being surrounded by people her long weekend does not start out well. In contrast Joni, with a rough Dublin accent, glitter decoration and a pack of lager has been looking forward to this since last years festival ended. With completely different friendship groups their paths do not cross until a chance encounter sees the direction of their weekend change – perhaps for the better. In costuming that complements their characters, Hardiman and Roe play off each other well. Hardiman’s script artfully skewers class divides and stereotypes by reaching beyond them to create a rounded, realistic friendship between two young women. Their new relationship throws existing friendships into sharp focus and forces the characters to assess what they really value in themselves and in others. Supplemented by the engaging and humourous Electric is a comedy with a heart.

Coordinated by set designer Ursula McGinn Electric demonstrates a detailed and precise level of detail that one does not usually see in a one-hour production. In the bar outside picture frames are decorated with flower garlands and lights; the words ‘Welcome’ and ‘Electric’ spelt out in bright multi – coloured blocks. Inside the theatre space strings of lights, ribbons and paper chains hang over the seating area. Lighting Designer Shane Gill works well with McGinn to create a bright, enticing theatre space. Fabric in soft colours, artfully lit from behind drape the rear of the stage. Large dreamcatchers are dotted about the place and the stage itself is covered in colourful confetti. Further, over the past few months there has been a noticeable improvement in the attention paid to creating informative and decent programmes, and Electric fits into the new trend.

Hardman, who last appeared at Theatre Upstairs in Fizzy Drinks With Two Straws, has shown development as a writer with Electric marking her first full length production. The play ended with the audience rising to their feet and cheering, proving that Electric is a play not to be missed.

Runs until 5th May 2019 | Image: Contributed