Split Ends, Bewley’s Café Theatre
Performed and Conceived by Lauren Larkin
Writer: Lauren Larking and Aisling Byrne
Director: Aisling Byrne
Bewley’s has been turned into an upmarket hair salon, and in place, early as always, is Amy. She is ready to take on the day and confirm her position as providing the best curly blow dry in Dublin. Amy is very much someone who gets what she wants.
Amy, played by Lauren Larkin, is on stage as the audience arrives. She knows you have to work hard and wait for what you want. All good things come to those who wait. Don’t they? This is what Amy tells herself. Well, its what Oprah and facebook tell her when she needs them too. However, how long can someone keep waiting patiently with no deadline in sight? She has three regular visitors who are all good company with their own stories to tell. From the older woman who keeps talking to hide what is inside, to the harried career woman with too many plates to juggle, to the young girl who is preparing for her communion like it is her wedding day. The salon is where they find a few moments for themselves and over repeat visits Amy gets to know more about each one as they confide in her. As Larking slips in and out of each character with ease, their secrets start to unravel and in turn we start to learn more about the Amy that the outside world doesn’t get to see.
The title fits the play perfectly. Split ends develop after hair experiences weathering and damage. When left too long the split begins to lengthen. This causes irreversible damage and the split has to be cut off. Can Amy refashion her life into something new, or will the split ends continue to damage and break?
This was not the first outing for Larkin’s Split Ends. It was developed at FRINGE LAB and first performed as a part of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2018. It is always a pleasure to see a play develop and make use of opportunities like Show in a Bag; to explore what can be done with the script and to fully develop an idea.
The set has been very well designed. Larkin is always busy, folding towels, flicking through magazines and on the phone. One suspects that a local salon was raided for the day to provide the necessary props. This was a great touch that elevated Split Ends and added a note of authenticity to the production. Excellent timing is demonstrated throughout, with lighting designer Colm Maher working in sync with the action on the stage. The final emotional scene was good but could have done with a little more oomph. Several days after seeing Split Ends the impact had faded more than it should have done considering the climax cuts close and is slightly uncomfortable to watch for those who have recently shared the same experiences. However this speaks to the power of the central truth at the heart of Split Ends and the skilful way in which Larkin and Byrne have told this story.
First Written for The Reviews Hub
Sweet Sensations, Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin – Dublin Fringe Festival 2018
Writer: Teri Fitzgerald
Director: Teri Fitzgerald
Welcome to Peafield Hospital for the Elderly. Here you will find staff and residents living in harmony. Or not. This is a hospital where the staff like a slower pace of life than that of their patients. After all, what is the point in pushing oneself too much when the day could be spent on gossip, tea breaks, and sneaking cigarettes at every opportunity? Visitors are few and far between and life is quite dull. That is until HIQA turn up to inspect the hospital and the staff are driven into a frenzy of trying to present a good image. Their mission is frustrated by the residents, who have decided that they are going to rebel. Led by well-spoken and fiery Josie it is time for the tables to turn.
Oil is added to the fire with the arrival of Toby. On community service for drug offences, he is lairy, hilarious and a deeply kind figure in the midst of madness. When residents are living in such conditions, the somewhat unorthodox life and manner of Toby begins to seem normal, and soon he and the residents have concocted an explosive plan.
Writer and director Fitzgerald works to keep the tone upbeat, comedic and timely. The stage is set early on with an interesting rap and dance production from the staff who admit that they are running a ‘shit show’. This had the audience laughing from the off but at first, it was a bit uncomfortable for this reviewer who has had the experience of months spent in a hospital, and the hard edges of the staff, here used for comedy and to try and make a political point, seem painfully close to reality. It is not long before one is carried away by the fast pace and broad humour. There are many moments of physical comedy and the two care assistants, played by Ali Fox and Gemma Kane, and Laurence Falconer as Toby, are particularly entertaining to watch. The ending is surprisingly touching and meaningful and helped to elevate the play into something with a message to share.
It is also of note; the programme was well done, free to patrons and informative. This is something that is unfortunately quite rare.
First Written for The Reviews Hub
Stop / Over, The Chocolate Factory, Dublin – Dublin Fringe Festival
Writer: Gary Duggan
Director: Nicola Murphy
The audience enters the theatre on the third floor of The Chocolate Factory to the sound of musician Keiji Ishiguri playing keyboard and delivering the most soulful version of mid-noughties hit Toxic (sorry Britney, but yes, this version was better). The music fades and two college friends, played by Ashleigh Dorrell and Siobhan Callaghan take to the stage.
The two Dubliners are meeting up for F’s last few days of her American road trip. M has spent the last three years living in New York but is excited to reconnect with someone from her past. It soon becomes clear that there is an underlying tension in their relationship and that once upon a time they were perhaps more than friends but not quite a couple. From the subway station to a tiny New York flat they set out for a nighttime odyssey through drink, drugs, sex, emotion, and confusion. Full of ideas of the past and hopes for what they could be as they dream and hallucinate, the audience follow them as they either fall together or fall apart.
Stop / Over makes full use of the whole of the third floor for the production. Turning the open plan, spare surroundings of The Chocolate Factory into New York. An otherwise empty space becomes Central Park in the rain, lights falling like raindrops on the couple as they work themselves out and recover from the high of the night before. Audiovisuals and movement were smoothly integrated into the story line with the soundscape and lighting propelling the narrative forward. This movement towards the immersive shows an interesting development for writer Gary Duggan that has proved very popular with audiences and adds extra value to the production.
Although F and M are so young at times their story felt older, as the themes reverberate with anyone who has wanted to love. The sense of longing, lust, and loneliness was palpable and yet one was never quite sure what would happen next. An immersive experience that fizzes with emotion and promise.
First Written for The Reviews Hub
Beat, Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin – Dublin Fringe Festival 2018
Writer: Fionntan Larney
Director: Dominic O’Brien
Beat. starts out as a raucous and rude rap musical drama. Full of pills and alcohol friends A and B are hungover after a night out. How much can they remember? The unconscious B may have finally taken things too far this time: after too many pills he ended up unconscious on the floor shouting at A’s girlfriend Sarah. or at least that’s what he’s told he did. Although he was the one leading the charge it is A that seems to experience most of the consequences. After his girlfriend walks out, tired of waiting for the day he will pull himself together, he also loses his job. As his day goes from bad to worse B sails through an interview high on cocaine and adrenalin. He hatches a plan to make his friend feel better: the session to end all sessions. However, a confrontation in a club with someone from the past triggers a turning point in the narrative. The characters are suddenly thrown into a new light.
Martha Breen changes characters many times throughout the performance. She started off introducing the show with bombast before becoming the long-suffering boss, the school bully, the ex-girlfriend and more. Dressed in black and white Breen became each new character with ease and fluidity. Harry Higgins and Fionntan Larney excel as friends struggling to say what they mean to each other. Their final scenes together are emotionally wrought and very well done. A changing lightscape with colourful strobe lighting is complemented by pulsating, beating, heavy music. Together they act to change the mood and propel the narrative forward.
This reviewer has never seen an audience rise to their feet, as one complete body, so quickly and seamlessly as they did at the end of Beat. Without a doubt one of the finest shows of the festival.
First Written for The Reviews Hub
Neighbourhood Watch, Dublin Fringe Festival 2018, The Complex
Creators: Mango x MathMan
Neighbourhood Watch is the closest one can get to what it must have felt like at the birth of hip-hop. Did those in attendance at house parties across 1970s New York know that they were witnessing the birth of a musical genre that would travel around the globe?
A small crowd gathered outside waiting to be allowed in. As the night progressed more and more people tried to make their way in. Queuing up outside felt like waiting to enter a club. The mood was relaxed; everyone was there to have a good time. There were lots of bottles of water, cans of flavoured cider and vodka being added to seven up bottles. Unlike other festival productions on entry, tickets were ripped up and wrists stamped.
The large, white room of The Complex that had been taken over for the night felt a little like a warehouse with its high ceiling and white walls. The night began properly at 11 pm and soon it felt like a night to remember. The music was loud, blanketing everything inside. It was easy to let it seep into one’s body as time slipped away. It is surprising how revitalising music can be. Images were projected onto the wall behind the performers and it was a reminder of how interesting it can be to see musicians and producers at work.
Attending Neighbourhood Watch is the coolest this reviewer has felt for a very long time (however, it is definitely not fashionable to be the first to arrive). Mango x MathMan know how to both pay homage to those that paved the way while also creating something new and distinct to them. They also know how to choose complementary special guests, each of whom added to the atmosphere. Homegrown hip hop has not always been appreciated as it should; this event helps to correct that. One could argue that this was an unusual production to be a part of a fringe festival however it was, without a doubt, a valuable and worthwhile one.
First Written for The Reviews Hub
Boy Child, Dublin Fringe Festival, The New Theatre – Dublin
Creators: FeliSpeaks and Dagogo Hart
Boy Child begins with a dark stage. Performers are dressed in black and the use of props is kept to a minimal. It was clear from the off that this is a production that sets out to paint a story with words. The background is kept clear to avoid distracting from the poetry on display. Created and performed by two of Ireland’s premier spoken word poets – FeliSpeaks and Dagogo Hart – Boy Child draws on Nigerian influences, storytelling, and history to create a picture of a man trying to find his way in the world.
We often hear that it is difficult to live in the modern world and that men are trying to navigate the path between following in the footsteps of their fathers whilst also embracing feminism and changing the way the world works. Boy Child brings these real-life dilemmas vividly to life; as poetry, philosophical ideas, adolescent confusion, and desire stalk the stage. The play, however, begins with a woman who falls in love and gives birth to her beloved son. She draws on the generations of women who came before her for strength and fears that her beloved child will grow up making the same mistakes as his father. Yet at the same time, she works to maintain the same system and way of being that draws her son into his father’s life. Is a young man supposed to forgo all that came before and say that his father and father’s father were all wrong; that the soul-destroying back-breaking work they did was for nothing?
At the heart of Boy Child is a wonderful portrayal of a boy evolving into a man. It is nuanced, relateable and absorbing. This is a quietly beautiful image of a man a motion. A man being made and constantly remaking himself. Boy Child is a thought-provoking addition to the fringe festival that can open one’s mind up to new ideas and to seeing familiar ideas in a different way.
The performance poetry scene in Dublin comes and goes in fits and starts. Hopefully, this is a sign that it is being taken seriously as an art form and will open the door to further spoken word performances in Dublin’s theatres.
First Written for The Reviews Hub
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
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.