Fizzy Drinks With Two Straws

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Fizzy Drinks With Two Straws – Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

Writer: Joyce Dignam

Directors: Joyce Dignam and Meabh Hennelly

Tea + Toast Theatre Company are presenting their entertaining short play Fizzy Drinks With Two Straws at Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs. The play previously premiered at Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene and Heard Festival, which gives theatre makers the chance to present and workshop new writing. It is interesting to see a play develop like this. It has been expanded upon for its current run and is being delivered on the back of a wealth of positive reviews from the festival.

The set sits perfectly in the theatre. The stage is a matter of inches from the front row. It largely consists of a soft green lawn, with a children’s slide and holiday paraphernalia (fizzy drinks, crisp packets, Barbie dolls) scattered about. One quarter of the stage is made of sand with small sandcastles facing the audience. This is Wexford. Sisters Lana are Rosie are here with their parents on holiday. They have been left outside to play while the adults are having a ‘grown up talk’ in the pub. Pints are consumed and the children are left to wonder is something wrong or it just for grownups? The phrase that we all know; “you’re too young to understand” stalks the play.

As the pair spend the day together their family story starts to unravel and through their young eyes the audience see how, although they may not understand, they are taking everything in. The clever use of a story within a story gives a ferocious insight into their family life and one can see how closely intertwined love, rage and fear can be. Both actresses, Ali Hardiman as Lara and Tara Maguire as Rosie, deliver assured performances that are often full of humour and naiveté. In some ways this is also a mystery play as the audience are drawn into the drama and try to work out what has bought the sisters to this point at the same time that they are trying to understand the grownups who keep changing around them. This is an interesting piece of new writing that will continue to entertain and intrigue for the rest of its run.

 

Anecdotal Evidence

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Anecdotal Evidence – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: Grainne Curistan

Director: Noel Cahill

It’s funny from where you’re standing.

Anecdotal Evidence premiered at Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene and Heard Festival 2017 in the theatre’s main space. It is without a doubt one of the most strange, interesting and powerful uses of theatre and satire that one is likely to see in the near future.

The play begins with distorted circus music. It feels uncomfortable and unavoidable. A table is placed near the back of the stage; decorated with large multi coloured lightbulbs and covered in blank paper. A man wearing a white toga, orange fright wig and clown makeup (face painted white, red mouth turned down at the sides and black make up around the eyes) takes up the position of a judge overlooking a court room. This is not an ordinary court room though. The ‘lawyers’, dressed all in black, are also made up to look like clowns, as is another cast member who facilitates the proceedings. Evidence is pulled out of storage boxes and important issues are reduced to being scribbled down on paper. A woman is bought onto the stage covered in a white sheet before she is unveiled like a prize. We learn that her name is Miss Reed and she acts almost as if a prop in proceedings. Even when the defendant is bought in, smartly dressed and able to defend himself verbally she remains mute. Her mouth has been covered and her body is dressed and manipulated as she stands there in silence.

It is important to note that Anecdotal Evidence is funny; its humour a little twisted, like a knife. The last few scenes are troubling and dark. They reach out and tell the audience to focus. Without giving away the narrative these last moments are perhaps the most frightening because this is where absurdity and parody fade into reality. The story is powerful and truthful. At the end it is impossible to look away and the strength of this makes one stop and breathe at the end. There is a moment of silence before the applause begins. This is innovative and entertaining theatre but it is also powerful political and social commentary that will linger on in the minds of all who see it.

By The Skin of Our Teeth

By The Skin of Our Teeth – Smock Alley Theatre – Dublin

Writer and Director: William Dunleavy

 

 

What happens after it’s all over?

 

The actors are already on stage as the audience files in. The dark stage is covered in chairs that have been upturned, making it difficult to navigate path from one side of the theatre to another. It looks like a disaster scene. There are seven people on stage; six men and one woman. They are all wearing white tops that are ripped and stained with black trousers. One person is lying like a hospital patient at the back. The rest of the actors look like they are hiding or have taken shelter where they have fallen. No one speaks or moves. The tableau is broken when a man wearing a damaged white boiler suit rushes onto the stage and wakes up one of the men.

 

They are in some post – apocalyptic world. It soon emerges that they all know each other. They had all been imprisoned for violent, and in some cases strange, crimes, and yet it was these prisoners that survived the devastation. By The Skin of Our Teeth is surprisingly funny for a dystopian play. William Dunleavy’s script is witty and original, peppered with humour and insights into the human condition. There is nowhere else in Dublin where one will be able to hear jokes about cannibalism and the benefits of surviving the apocalypse on a cold winter night.

 

By The Skin of Our Teeth has been presented as a part of the Smock Alley Scene and Heard Festival 2017 which gives new writing to opportunity to get feedback so that a play can continue to develop. By The Skin of Our Teeth is an excellent demonstration of this ethos. With a little more work and a longer running time has the potential to turn into a powerful dark comedy. The final scene is quite moving as it makes the audience question themselves and their preconceptions. In this new world they can start over. Will they now have the chance to be seen as just people rather than criminals?

 

 

Pacemaker

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Pacemaker – Smock Alley, Dublin

For Pacemaker the day couldn’t get worse. But then it does.

Two women are at work. They have never gotten on and soon things develop into a full-scale feud when they find themselves speaking to management. Charges range from ‘she smells of egg’ to ‘she ate my sandwiches’. Oh and a mistimed joke about weight loss. Things intensify until the recently promoted Pacemaker finds herself being escorted out of the building to begin a week of temporary suspension before her disciplinary hearing. The week goes downhill from here. Soon she finds herself having a strange conversation with a pharmacist about the morning after pill, being accused of stealing shoes in a dole centre and running away from the scene despite the cries of ‘murderer’ coming after her. At the same time her former colleague finds herself engulfed by guilt which she then drowns in wine and drunken mistakes. For both characters one small action goes on to effect the rest of their week as they have to face who they are while also being forced to leap through various comic hoops.

The scenes in the dole centre and the pharmacy are hilarious. They begin as something recognisable before escalating into something absurd and strange; Pacemaker is living a week long nightmare told through the lens of comedy. The dialogue is fresh and pacey. The speed of the piece does not drop for a second so the 30 minutes go by in a flash. Movement, speech and facial expressions are timed perfectly.

The play is performed by Meg Healy and Camille Lucy Ross. Both Ross and Healy are very fine comic actresses and have the audience laughing from the beginning with a short silent routine before the conversation begins. There were also moments for the audience to take away with them that are honest and touching. Anyone, including this reviewer, who has ever had a day they just wished would end will be able to return to Pacemaker and breathe a sigh of relief that they are not living her life.

Pacemaker, written by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, is a must see and a highlight of the Dublin theatre calendar. It is with excitement that we will wait for Smyth’s next piece of work.

Runs until 25 February 2017 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview: 5*

At Odds

First Written for The Reviews Hub

At Odds – Smock Alley, Dublin

Director: Colum Folan

The audience first hear the two actors before they see them. They are singing in a soft, mournful manner as they enter from the left of the stage. The stage has been left empty except for two clipboards resting at the back. This keeps the attention on actors Lucy Cray – Miller and Clara Mallon. They are both dressed in black and the lighting is simple. The focus remains on the speech in this production; a mixture of dialogue and monologue with occasional singing.

The two characters, who we soon learn are mother and son, share dialogue with the audience before moving into alternate monologues. It is revealed that the problems in their relationship began at pregnancy when the mother felt as though her own body was fighting against her. This continued after birth when she was presented with a child that never cried; in fact he rarely seemed to react at all. He remains blank and she is distraught that he doesn’t seem to need her. Believing that there is something wrong she takes him to specialists who find him to be a very healthy child but begin to question the mother’s mental health. Soon the two characters are diagnosing each other, questioning, and trying to find a way to live with each other. There is a saying that it is not enough to love someone, they have to know that they are loved.

At Odds is presented by Kepler Theatre Works as a part of Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene and Heard Festival, which gives new writers a chance to see their work on stage. Running at only 30 minutes long At Odds is a fascinating investigation into an unusual mother son relationship in which love is uncertain and confused. It is a deep and intense piece of work that is well balanced between the two characters and very well delivered.

Runs until 24 February 2017 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 3.5*

Key Word: Intriguing

HashtagRelationshipGoalz

First Written for The Reviews Hub

HashtagRelationshipGoalz – Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Director: Emma Jane Purcell

HashtagRelationshipGoalz begins with a young couple sat on chairs in the centre of the stage. The only props they use are the two chairs, a patterned blanket and a small table. He has his arm slung over her shoulders while playing on an ipad. She is obviously bored. So is he. They bicker and laugh and try to figure out how to spend the night. Cinema, restaurant, pub or back to their parents’ house? It is clear that they love being together although they argue near constantly. There are brief monologues when the actors are alone on stage, turn to the audience and we hear their inner thoughts and frustrations. Our young couple begin the show together, will they end it the same way?

Actors Costello (who also writes) and Sean Doyle have been cropping up in productions in the Dublin theatre scene for several years now. Both bringing their experience and wit to this new production. Interestingly Costello also has credits to her name as a writer and director and we are bound to be seeing much more of her talent in the coming years. Alongside Costello and Doyle the cast is rounded out by the assured Laura O’Leary as the interfering, teenage sister who barges into her older sister’s life with her frequent disasters and embarrassing questions.

HashtagRelationshipGoalz is presented by Squad Theatre Company as a part of Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene and Heard Festival, which gives new writers a chance to see their work on stage. Running at only 30 minutes long it is a playful, realistic and touching portrait of three young people trying to find their way in the world with each other. It is very pleasant to find a play of such quality at the Festival and it will hopefully be resurrected at some point in the near future.

Runs until 24 February 2017 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4.5*

SYRIUS

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, Scene and Heard Festival 2017.

 

Writer and Performer: Romana Testasecca

Director: Karen Killeen

Movement Coordinators: Stephanie Dufresne

Producer: Palma Testasecca

Sound Designer: Garret Hynes

 

SYRIUS begins with Rasha, played by Testasecca, running in circles around the stage. We can hear her heavy breathing; there is no respite. She is wearing purple and green. As a young woman in Syria she is taking part in a peaceful protest with other women. They decided to wear wedding dresses as they reflect happiness and are as positive and nonthreatening as can be. Standing with her placard, white writing on a red background, Rasha has a wedding veil covering her face. She seems anxious and confused. Scared maybe. A speaker plays out a Syrian protest call. It isn’t long before she is imprisoned by the Assad regime. In a letter to her father she expresses her surprise at being incarcerated for standing on a street with a placard. Surely that is a totalitarian action? Finding the Syria she knew and loved is no longer Rasha tells her father she can no longer stay in the country. She hopes that the rest of her family can join her soon. She expresses the difficulty, fear and poverty of refugee camps and detention centres through her body: shoulders stooped, a constant weariness. However her tent turns into a boat sail and after seven countries and an ocean she finds herself in Portlaoise, Ireland. Here she spins with happiness arms open and free. Rasha has hope again.
Sound is used effectively throughout the performance. Her dance moves, sometimes like marching and stomping, sound out her emotions. The use of lighting, sound and movement is very strong. It is a very physical form of storytelling. If this production is developed on further it would be interesting to see how Rasha fares in her new home.

 

One person plays are particularly hard to pull off and Testasecca does this with aplomb. This is an excellent production telling the story of how and why a young girl would feel she has to leave her native country and family for a foreign land. If you are wary of ‘non – traditional’ theatre this might be the ideal show to see as the narrative and storytelling are so strong.

 

Presented by Rosebuds Theatre Company, who were last seen in All Washed Up at The New Theatre, SYRIUS runs at under 30 minutes as a part of the Scene and Heard Festival 2017.
Catch it while you can.

 

Runs Until 26th February 2017.
Key word: Magical
Rating 4.5*