Our Few and Evil Days (Review) – Krank.ie

First Published October 2014 on krank.ie

Advertisements


http://www.krank.ie/wp-content/themes/multinews/framework/helpers/js/html5.js
http://www.krank.ie/wp-content/themes/multinews/framework/helpers/js/IE9.js

ofaed
Writer and Director: Mark O’Rowe
Starring: Ian Lloyd Anderson, Sinéad Cusack, Ciarán Hinds, Charlie Murphy and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Mark O’Rowe returns to the stage for the first time since 2007’s Transmission with a deeply chilling play about the modern Irish family and the lengths people will go to for those they love. Performed at the Abbey Theatre’s main stage, this sell out performance with an all-star cast marks an interesting turn towards the more radical with this curious investigation of grief, love and family ties.

The staging is the first indication that something different, something unusual is about to unfold. The first six or so rows of seats have been removed in order to extend the set outwards, right into the audience. Designed by Paul Wills, the stage portrays a recognisable domesticity. A middle class home, its living room and kitchen/diner comes right into the stalls, bringing the audience into the heart of the lives and household of Michael and Margaret.

Played by Hinds and Cusack they are flawless as a married couple; loving, passionate, and yet deeply sad. Hiding their grief beneath the skin of routine, half-truths and lies nearly forgotten. They give deeply powerful and unforgettable performances; to the extent that one can never imagine anyone else playing these characters. Hinds is exceptional as the husband and father defeated in trying to protect those he loves.

When their daughter Adele (Murphy) brings her boyfriend Dennis (Vaughan–Lawlor) home for the first time, his interest and questioning set in motion a chain of events and discoveries that undermine the ordinariness portrayed. By scratching the surface of a secret held right at the centre of what should be a very typical family, leading towards an unexpected conclusion.

O’Rowe’s dialogue has the characters constantly cutting over and interrupting each other. They query the assumptions made in general conversation to find humour in the very Irish vernacular. Despite, or perhaps because of, the dark subject matter the play is funny. O’Rowe’s decision to direct the play himself pays off. The use of dramatic lightening halts scenes abruptly, mirroring the stops and starts in the conversation to comic effect. The comedy begins to fall into tragedy as the love and shared history that binds the family together also threatens to break them apart.

Our Few and Evil Days looks underneath the rituals and assumptions that grow up around families and couples; finding something dangerous, almost sinister. An exciting new play, Our Few and Evil Days pushes the ideas of devotion, adoration and obligation within a family to their furthest limits. The unsettling conclusion finally brings meaning to the Biblically inspired title. This is one of the few times a theatre experience will be totally new and unique; with an ending that will leave any audience moved by what they have seen.

[Image: Abbey Theatre]

National Theatre Live: A Street Car Named Desire | University Observer

First Published October 2014

 

With the idea of broadcasting theatre in cinemas becoming more popular, Laura Marriott reviews the recent screening of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

On Tuesday 16th September, as a part of the National Theatre Live programme, Tennessee Williams’ classic play A Street Car Named Desire was screened to cinema audiences globally. This collaborative programme of bringing the theatre into cinemas has flourished over the past year, significantly increasing the play’s audience. One can now enjoy a Young Vic production hundreds of miles away from where it is performed in London in the cheaper and more comfortable environs of one’s local cinema.

Directed by Joshua Andrews, this all-star production is the fastest selling play in the Young Vic’s history and was the ideal candidate for its first ever live broadcast.

It stars Gillian Anderson as the infamous protagonist Blanche Du Bois, a woman down on her luck who finds herself on the doorstep of her younger sister Stella, played by Vanessa Kirby. In turn Stella finds herself trapped between her sister and her brutal, magnetic husband; the volatile Stanley, played by Ben Foster. Blanche’s arrival triggers a sequence of events that leads toward an almost inevitable, tragic conclusion, as family secrets and behaviours are bought struggling into the open.

The trio work excellently together, sparking off each other and evoking the heat of 1940’s New Orleans. For Anderson this is a career defining role as she delivered one of her finest performances yet.

Williams’ knack for humour and the New Orleans vernacular keep the play from falling into melodrama, as the characters delve into the danger of desire and a violent sexuality that typifies the production.

Andrews made the interesting decision to use a slowly rotating stage so that every audience member would have a slightly different perspective. As the stage moves Blanche’s world spirals out of control and the audience are invited directly inside this little world. This particular effect may have worked excellently in the theatre but its impact was minimal on screen. The camera crew have to be commended for doing an excellent job at catching the action and atmosphere unfolding on the stage.  

Further clever lighting work and a modern soundtrack adds an edge of danger and drama at pivotal moments. The scaffolding structure of their home sometimes feels more like a prison, reflecting the way in which the characters have been trapped and held still in the sweltering heat by their sticky pasts and raw emotions.

After Miss Julie – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

First Published March 2013

AfterMissJulie_ProjectArtsCentre_(c)CiaranBagnall

Writer: Patrick Marber

Director: Emma Jordan

After Miss Julie is a re-imagining of the classic August Strindberg play Miss Julie. Brought to the Dublin stage by Prime Cut Productions it began today what must surely be a successful run at Temple Bar’s The Project Arts Centre. Celebrated writer Patrick Marber has re-located the play from an English country house on the day of Labour’s landslide 1945 election win to County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is V.E. day and as the celebration rages on upstairs Miss Julie descends downstairs. The night is only just beginning and soon the lives of all involved are turned upside down.

The play takes place mainly in the kitchen. A large wooden table dominates the scene with an Aga stove, decorative white and blue crockery adorning the walls and a concrete slab floor. These features are all emblematic of a typical country kitchen run by its servants. It is an intimate setting, a place where the aristocrats are never supposed to go.

Moving the action of the play to Northern Ireland gives it a new lease of life as it is presented to an Irish audience in a familiar setting, opening up new avenues of exploration. The country house itself is a shadow of the old order which is under attack by modernism and the shockwaves of the war.

Chauffeur John (Ciaran McMenamin) has returned from war and settled back into his life as faithful servant and perhaps friend to the master of the house. His class ideals and ambition come to the fore in his almost violent interactions with Miss Julie (Lisa Dwyer Hogg). Rounding off the love triangle is Christine (Pauline Hutton), a fellow servant who works in the kitchen and appears keen for the pattern of life to stay safe, and stable, while all about her is changing. Seemingly immune to the passions that have engulfed the others in the house Christine perhaps proves to be the most surprising character of them all.

Hogg excellently captures the multifaceted Miss Julie; her confusion, pride, arrogance and need to be loved are at the heart of this tragedy. Interestingly, the characters we are rooting for at the start of the play are not necessarily the characters we are rooting for in the end. Director Emma Jordan works well with Marber ensuring the complex emotions and ideas that drive the characters are understood by the audience.

This intense, passionate play thrills and enthrals in equal measure as the audience try to keep up with the ever changing emotional state of the characters. As the play draws to a close, church bells are heard to chime in the background. Are they ushering in a new dawn, or acting as a reminder of a life that has always been?

Runs until March 19th 2016 | Image: Ciaran Bagnall. 

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 3*

Thrilling

Creditors – The New Theatre, Dublin

First Published January 2016

Creditors_TheNewTheatre
Writer: August Strindberg

 

Adaption: David Grieg

Director: Aoife Spillane-Hinks

A revival of August Strindberg’s Creditors opened to a full house in Dublin’s’ New Theatre. Commonly seen as one of Swedish writers Strindberg’s finest plays this powerful version was adapted by Scottish playwright David Greig.

Although written in 1888 it feels very modern, the tragicomedy finds a new home in 21sr Century Dublin. Set in an unnamed seaside resort it begins with two men Adolph (Kevin C Olohan), an artist who has recently turned his attentions to sculpture, and Gustav (Ronan Leahy), a stranger with whom Adolph finds it surprisingly easy to discuss the intricacies of his marriage. As Adolph awaits the return of his wife, Tekla (Susan Bracken), he takes the audience through their life together.

Adolph had always been happy with Tekla, however, Gustav does not seem willing to let him rest in his contentment. Adolph proves easily influenced and open to Gustav’s interpretation of the dynamics of his marriage. He latches onto the fact that they nickname each other Big Sister and Little Brother. She is always in the more powerful, dominant position while he is the one being educated, shaped by her. Gustav pounces on Adolph’s insecurities, a feeling that has intensified as her success as a writer has eclipsed his as an artist. Gustav proves to be a vindictive, destructive character as he works his charms first on Adolph, and then on Tekla.

This frequently dark play is also very funny. Gustav’s opinions on men and women make the audience laugh out loud throughout the first half before the characters edge closer and closer to tragedy. The setting is sparse, timeless and allows the focus to remain on the dialogue. The cast walks on to the gentle sound of Brahms which fades away into the background. However the play ends to the sound of heavy rock music blaring out from the stages’ two front speakers. The gathering intensity of Creditors is reflected in the music which reaches a crescendo before a coming to a sudden stop.

The three-person cast interacts together excellently, bringing the story of a couple and the weight of guilt to life in a forceful 90-minute act. As the title suggests the role of debt within relationships, one being indebted to the other for educating and inspiring them for example, plays a vital role throughout the play. As they examine the themes of seduction, betrayal, revenge and gender roles within marriage, can the marriage survive?

Runs until 6 February 2016 | Image: courtesy of The New Theatre

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Thrilling

IDGTF: St. Joan – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Writer: Julia Pascal

Director: Katrin Hilbe

A taxi journey in the mild summer of 1995 takes the audience on an interesting turn through history. St Joan is a powerful three woman play (Samantha Pearl, Juliet Dante, Rachel Halper) that investigates ideas of nationhood and women. It asks can St Joan save a life? Could she go back through time and rescue mankind from the horrors they inflict upon each other. The play sets out to explore national identity, race and the rôle of women in history and society. Representing women as both victims of history and as those who create it. The three actors take on different identities throughout, exploring French and English identities for example and how closely related they are at times.

Highly political St Joan addresses many key issues and links their history to their present. This helps to show how the same themes and ideas have been important over time, and that even though six hundred years have passed since the birth of Joan of Arc, equality and nationhood are still controversial topics in many place, not least modern France. Joan of Arc wants to fight the English out of France but would she be so quick to rid the France of today of non-nationals? It raises questions of what it means to belong to a nation, looking into the history of migration and colonisation to question whether anyone can really make a claim to a particular nation.

The writer Pascal, has taken an innovative approach to women’s history. The figure of St Joan is based on the 15th century French heroine and later Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc; the ‘Maid or Orleans’ who wore men’s clothing and fought to free France from the English before she was eventually burned at the stake for her alleged crimes, which included witchcraft.

The staging is sparse. Metal poles and bloodied sheets portray strength and battles fought and still to be won. This is a visceral production which will hopefully be seen on the Dublin stage even after the end of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, of which St Joan is a part of. This short play is a fast paced, eloquent and well directed, keeping the narrative moving without ever losing the audience. It is a highly amusing and physical performance that is not to be missed.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 4*

Powerful

IDGTF: The Astonished Heart – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015

THEASTONISHEDHEART - IDGTF

Writer: Noel Coward

Director: Geoff O’Keeffe

The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward is a short performance running at just over an hour and playing to a packed audience as a part of Dublin’s International Gay Theatre Festival.

The audience are taken into the lives of Barbara (Michelle Reade) and Christian (Colin Walsh), a loving but not entirely happy couple in their mid – 30s. When an old school friend returns it challenges the dynamic. Barbara and Leon (Steven Masterson) instantly resume the closeness and humour that they had shared as children. Despite this, the connection between Christian and Leon is obvious from the moment they meet and Coward leaves the audience unsure of what path this relationship will take. Christian falls passionately in love with Leon but all involved are unprepared for the effect that this will have. A love triangle ensues with each character searching for love and acceptance, of themselves and within others.

The staging is minimal but effective. A bed, covered in bright red covers, takes centre stage, moving dependent on which couple are occupying the focus at that time. A blue heart, in two pieces, hangs above it and a drinks table and chair sits in the corner throughout. The sparse staging is effective and allows the story to unfold unhindered by an overly complicated set design.

One of the highlights of The Astonished Heart is the language which delves into the nature of love, relationships and acceptance without ever lecturing the audience, keeping their attention throughout. The trio of actors, from Behind the Moon Productions, work very well together to give meaning to Coward’s dialogue. Most performances at this year’s International Dublin Theatre Festival will be seen in light of the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage. This play does not sensationalise or try overly hard to make a point, instead it is so well acted and directed that questions of gender are never raised, it is simply a story of love.

The Astonished Heart is an intense piece of theatre that both entertains and leaves the audience contemplating its themes and ideas long after curtain call.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 3.5*

Intense

The Man in Two Pieces – Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

First Published April 2015

THEMANINTWOPIECES - TUptairs

Writer: Gerard Adlum

Director: Sarah Finlay

Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs has been transformed to Ireland in 1921. Under cover of night Kerrigan’s Vaudeville troupe, which has taken up temporary residence in a country town, is joined by a nameless boy, who sees the dream of the place and thinks ‘this must be the place’. The boy runs away with this miscellaneous group headed by ring-leader and general impresario; Kerrigen.

The first sign that this play could be something special comes before the audience enter the theatre. The announcement on the programme that the character of Kerrigan, one of only two actors to grace the stage, is being played by Stephen Brennan bodes well. Brennan is a well established and accomplished actor who is perfectly cast as the spell binding Kerrigen.

The Theatre Upstairs is a cosy and intimate space, drawing the audience into the world created on stage. The stage is cluttered with strong man apparatus, the lights are often dimmed or reddish in hue as most of the play takes place at night, and gives the magic of the language and mystery chance to breathe. There is something inherently magical and intriguing about a travelling vaudeville troupe; a group of people who are not tied to place and social conventions in the way that the rest of society is. However Ireland is deeply troubled at this time and this eventually starts to permeate the troupe. As the group of misfits struggle to find their way in this changing landscape The Man in Two Pieces tries to get to the heart of not just what makes a man, but a consummate showman like Kerrigen.

The play has been well scripted by debut playwright Gerard Adlum, who has built up a solid background of acting work over the past few years and who showed great ability as an actor during this play. It is astonishing to think that this is Adlum’s debut as a playwright and Dublin audiences can only hope that it will be the start of a long successful career.

Photo courtesy of Theatre Upstairs. Runs until April 18th. 

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 4.5*

Magical