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.

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Honest

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Honest – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Writer: DC Moore
Director: David Horan
Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Is honesty always the best policy?

Meet Dave. A frustrated civil servant surrounded by bureaucratic incompetence and hypocrisy. We step into Dave’s life as he seems to be entering some sort of existential crisis. Lying, he argues, is a part of life and it is only the less pleasant or caring who are always honest. After all, who really wants to be given the brutal truth all of the time? However, on this night Dave finds he no longer has it in him to keep telling the lies that are needed to not rock the boat. This new found inability to lie causes havoc on a work night out as he looks around him with bewilderment at the events around him. After a conversation with his boss in which he is more truthful than is advisable he embarks on a quest through the dark corners of inner London before finding himself in a suburban garden.

The one-man play is carried excellently by performer Kevin Murphy. His strong Welsh accent rises and falls as he takes you through one emotional night. The audience starts laughing early on in the play and continues right until the surprisingly deep ending that punches through the barrier between performer and audience member. Dave’s working life in the civil services provides a rich vein of humour. This move towards complete honesty means that he is not always the most attractive of characters; however, Murphy softens him, making him fully rounded and recognisable. Murphy fits this part perfectly and he carries the audience with him on this late night expedition. The theatre is cosy and brings audience members into the eye line of the actor. It feels intimate. It is very easy to get lost in the action as the time whizzes by before landing on a surprisingly powerful and touching final note.

Honest is a 45-minute lunchtime show but is probably one of the best stage productions to hit Dublin this year.

Runs until 26 November 2016 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Top Ten Things To Do If You’re a Postgrad In Dublin

First written for postgrad.com 2016

Recently I have written a few pieces about being a postgraduate student for postgrad.com. Here is my second offering: a top 10 of things to do in Dublin. Hopefully there are a few things that you haven’t previously thought of and there are many ideas for tourists and residents in search of something new!

So you’re going to be a postgraduate student in Dublin. The Irish capital is thriving and has a unique take between new and old. Explore Ireland’s world famous arts and heritage and enjoy the sights and sounds of this ideal postgraduate city.

1. Stroll Around Phoenix Park

This beautiful urban park is one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. It is so big it includes a zoo, Aras an Uachtaráin (the official residence of the President of Ireland), a visitor centre and Ashtown Castle. It’s particularly lovely in springtime when you can lie among the bluebells and wait to spot some of the wild deer that live there.

2. Visit Kilmainham Gaol

First built in 1796, this former prison hosted some of the most infamous and momentous events of twentieth century Irish history. Visit this museum to see where revolutionaries such as Patrick Pearse and James Connolly were held after their attempt to overthrow the British administration in Ireland with the 1916 Easter Rising. The site where they were summarily tried and executed will send shivers down your spine.

3. Eat Murphy’s Ice Cream

Now is your chance to indulge in the legendary caramelised brown bread ice cream that Murphy’s parlour is famous for. Often voted the best in Ireland, no stay in Dublin is complete without a trip to this Donegal import. Sample every flavour under the sun when relaxing between seminars.

4. Catch A Game At Croke Park

Although rugby is the nation’s game, at Croke Park you can also see the very best of Gaelic football and hurling. For the uninitiated hurling looks like a cross between football and quidditch, but is unfailingly exhilarating and entertaining. One weekend take to the stands and cheer on the Dubs!

5. Enjoy Seafood In Howth

Howth is a picturesque fishing village on the North side of Dublin. Work up an appetite walking along the cliffs before taking your pick of the dozens of fish restaurants. Where else can you look out over the harbour while eating Dublin bay prawns fresh from the sea?

6. Trawl Temple Bar

Usually the first stop for tourists Temple Bar is still well worth a visit. If possible go in spring or autumn when you can enjoy the live music, daytime book markets and food markets. Take the time to explore the record shops selling vinyl classics at bargain prices. Visit one of the many theatre or galleries that pepper the area and enjoy a pint of the black stuff as the sun goes down.

7. Indulge In Historical Drinking

An alternative to Temple Bar, visit the oldest pub in the city. Established in 1198 the Brazen Head is a chance to step back in time. Each night there is something different from Irish storytellers, live music and extensive food and drink menus. When you have settled in this is the perfect place to bring visitors and impress them with your local knowledge.

8. Check Out Trinity College Dublin

The official guided tour of the Elizabethan college includes entry to the Books of Kells and Old Library – which is also home to the first printing of the Irish Proclamation. Starting at the front gate, which took pride of place in the Oscar winning film Educating Rita, take a trip through the interesting, bizarre and unique world of Ireland’s oldest university.

9. Spend Christmas Eve On Grafton Street

The main shopping throughway in Dublin attracts people from all over the country to do their Christmas shopping. The Christmas lights are beautiful with a large tree lit up before the entrance of Stephens Green Park. Grafton Street is also famous for its buskers. Wandering along you can hear Irish chart toppers, classical choirs and acoustic love songs. On December 24th each year a celebrity busking session for charity frequently includes Bono, Hozier, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard.

10. Enjoy Festivals

One of the lesser known facts about Dublin is that there is a festival for everything. At almost any time of the year you can attend a festival. One of the highlights of the calendar is the annual Drac Fest which pays homage to Dracula, written by one of the cities famous sons: Bram Stoker. October Fest is always great fun, as are the Christmas markets found on the Docklands and in theatre and Cathedral crypts.

 

TDFF: RISK

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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TIGER DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Risk – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Diane Crotty

“Risk is risk and consequences are consequences …”

RISK is a two handed drama thriller set in 1966 London. A crime family from Dublin have been forced to move and are making their new home in London. Join them as they prepare to set out their stall and take over.

However their plans are thrown into disarray when shortly after they arrive in London the father dies leaving his two daughters unprotected. Frances and Agnes are unwilling to be pushed aside or taken advantage of. It is time to come out fighting and the organised and powerful Frances will be the one taking control. However Agnes’ innocent look and soft words are misleading. She is a puzzler; she sees patterns and understands people in a way that both her father and now her sister rely on.

At first they take turns speaking before breaking into conversation. The language and action are fast paced in this enjoyable journey into the city’s underworld. It is perhaps unusual to see two women leading a crime empire however they pull it off with aplomb. With words alone and few props they succeed in creating a vivid picture of the life they are living and their personalities burst through. The use of two sisters as the main characters keeps things fresh and surprising. It is a well written and tight play from writer and director Diane Crotty who has managed to tap into an underused narrative vein.

Particular attention has been paid to the costumes. Agnes, the younger sister played by Susan Barrett, is dressed in a soft pink dress with plain silver heels. Her hair loose around her face. The effect is almost girlish and innocent. In comparison France, her older sister played by Lisa Tyrell, is far more pulled together. In sparkly silver heels, a fitted dress and her hair pinned up she looks professional and in control. Further although the set design is simple it is effective. One silver chair with black and pink upholstery next to one wooden stool. The pink and silver matching the actresses outfits. Their personalities and actions are reflected in their clothes.

This is a strong festival debut from Dublin based Whisky Tango Foxtrot theatre company and hopefully marks the beginning of a long relationship between the company and the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival.

Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Jass Foley

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Thriller

TDFF: To Hell in a Handbag

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Writers: Helen Norton and Jonathan White

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination.” – Oscar Wilde

To Hell in a Handbag explores the, until now, secret lives of Canon Chasuble (Jonathan White) and Miss Prism (Helen Norton), two fringe characters from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Miss Prism is best known as the woman who accidentally left a baby behind in a railway cloakroom and left with a handwritten manuscript in a handbag. On the face of it Miss Prism is the image of a perfect governess and Canon Chasuble a respectable middle aged rector. Behind the image though they are living tempestuous lives full of negotiation, deception, false identity and black mail. And most importantly money. Both characters have fascinating and surprising back stories. The play is deeply funny. The one liners are excellent and well played; both Norton and White having a knack for timing and comedy.

The stage is small but well utilised. A desk covered with correspondence, a seat and small table hiding something medicinal! To Hell in a Handbag is set during and around the events of The Importance of Being Earnest. Lines from the play are heard over loudspeaker from time to time to move the action on and introduce the less well known characters to the audience. Both Norton and White are experienced actors having undertaken a wide variety of celebrated work on both stage and screen. This can be seen throughout as both actors show skill and nuance, playing each line to full effect.

The play does a good job of going behind the public face to the confusion and absurdity of the private life of this seemingly staid, proper Victorian pair. This is To Hell in a Handbag’s premiere so it will be interesting to see if it goes on to develop a life of its own as many previous shows developed in association with the popular ‘Show in a Bag’ initiative have. This year’s Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival has brought many new plays to the Dublin stage, giving both theatre makers and audiences the chance to experience something new and fresh. Good humoured and more than a little farcical To Hell in a Handbag follows in Wilde’s footsteps and creating an entertaining and comedic spectacle for all to enjoy.

Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: contributed.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Key Word: Funny

TDFF: Eggsistentialism – Smock Alley, Dublin

First Written For The Reviews Hub September 2016

Eggsistentialism_SmockAlley_(c)KenColeman

Writer: Joanne Ryan

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Meet Joanne. It is the morning after her 35th birthday and she is hungover. Deflecting calls from her mother she has started to question the life she is living. Spurred on by her fathers’ recent death and her milestone birthday she realises that her fertility has an expiry date that is fast approaching but so far she doesn’t even know if she wants children, let alone when and with whom.

As she tries to decide what she wants she is helped by her mother, a fertility clinic, online quizzes, radio counsellors, fortune tellers and her unwitting side kick, her new boyfriend Rob. This is a one woman show performed by writer Joanne Ryan. The show strikes a particular resonance, as this reviewer observed that this generation of Irish women have more control over when they become pregnant than previous generations. Her mothers’ story also features heavily, having also shaped both of their lives. After becoming pregnant with Joanne, aged 32, she was single and unsure what to do. Ireland in the 1970s was not such a friendly place for a single mother so she found herself moving to bedsits and hostels in London so that she could have control of her own body and raise her daughter as her own. Although the subject matter is quite serious it is told in a very funny way and her mothers’ ‘Irish Mammy’ one liners make the audience laugh out loud.

Using a two seater sofa and movable table as props there is also a large screen set behind her which she occasionally interacts with. When rattling though the history of the women in her family and the way in which they were shaped by the Irish state’s interventions into their lives, the screen comes alive with facts, images and humorous ideas.

This is a well written and honest performance that will make you stop and think, as well as laugh with joy. Ryan gives a strong, powerful, comedic performance that lasts in one’s memory and opens the audience’s mind with her honesty. Interrupted with poignancy and delicacy Eggsistentialism is a surprising watch. This is one woman’s deeply funny and brave journey to decide if making a life for herself should involve making another. One of the Fringe Festival’s must see performances.

Runs until 17 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Ken Coleman.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4.5*

Eggscellent!

TDFF: Age of Transition

First Written for The Reviews Hub September 2016

AgeofTransition_Peacock_CáitFahy

TIGER DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Age of Transition – The Peacock Stage, Dublin

Creator: Aoife McAtamney

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Age of Transition is a dance concert featuring Aoife McAtamney as star and singer, three dancers, and three musicians. The production hopes to explore different phases of love through the means of sound and movement. McAtamney sings seven self-penned songs that take the audience into a story of love and wondering. One highlight is a particularly beautiful song about wanting to be married and waiting for that moment to occur, waiting for the diamond to be offered. McAtamney has an endearing voice and these compositions allow her to show this. She is accompanied by three dancers who use slow gentle movements that change and accelerate with the feeling of the music. The dancers work well together and their movements flow with a natural feel. In a semi-circle around McAtamney are three musicians, a cellist, pianist and electronic musician who work in sync with the other performers while never overpowering the vocals. Each musician is particularly talented however the cellist Mary Barnecutt deserves particular praise.

McAtamney, stands out from the seven person production, wearing a gentle pink dress, with the others dressed in more muted, earthy tones. This productions and others like it help to show what can be done with such a simple staging. Having previously performed in sell out show at the festival this is a welcome and successful return for McAtamney. However Age of Transition is also a collaborative performance including work by composer Michael Gallen, Berlin dance troupe Sweetie Sit Down, and design by visual artist Kelly Tivnan.

For those familiar with this interdisciplinary form – the joining of music, dance and visual arts –will find much to delight in with Age of Transition. Those less familiar will still be entertained, however the musical interludes appeal most, with some of the dance breaks feeling slower and perhaps less meaningful. Running at an hour long Age of Transition holds the audience’s attention throughout and shows off McAtamney’s beautiful voice and song writing skills. Overall Age of Transition is an enchanting exploration of love and self – actualisation.

Runs until 16 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Cáit Fahy.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 3.5*

Enchanting