The Belly Button Girl

bellybutton-001

The Belly Button Girl, The New Theatre

Writer and Performer: Tom Moran

Director and Producer: Romana Testasecca

The intriguingly titled The Belly Button Girl opens with our narrator (and sole performer) arriving at ‘Cousin Sharon’s’ 21st at a parochial hall in Dingle. Listless and not really enjoying the night, our narrator soon comes to life when he catches sight of the bar maid. Enchanted by her she quickly gains the moniker: The Belly Button Girl. Over the course of the weekend, through a series of accidents and misspoken phrases, they become close. The weekend closes as they wind up together in her bed in Portobello, Dublin. Our narrator is in love. Infatuated and contemplating their life together, we follow him over twelve months as their relationship grows and changes. Reminiscent of falling in love for the first time, The Belly Button Girl, is a story of love and confusion, edged with the hope of redemption.

A bench took centre stage, with beach paraphernalia decorating the front and back of the stage along with small items that are significant in the plot; an anchor, a small Buddha statue, pieces of driftwood. The set design, by Ursula McGinn, is delicate with each item carefully placed for maximum meaning. The soft blues and sandy pebbles recreate the feel of a small Dingle beach, where accidents and love stories can take place. This was complemented perfectly the excellently times lighting by Eoin Lennon. Brining this together was the direction of Romana Testasecca, who demonstrates an understanding of the power of space and structure, and whose flair for movement reverberated through the performance.

Moran is a consummate performer. He doesn’t falter for a second and all eyes stay on him over the course of the hour. He embodies the narrator with ease and switches from moments of light comedy to intense feeling. The narrator is twinkly and easy to like; blessed with an ability to always hope for the best, even when all of the signs are pointing the other way. Some of the plays highlights emerge with the introduction of several secondary characters, from the taxi driving ‘Sambuca lady’, to the ‘Massive Lad’ and the Dublin taxi driver who offers the narrator an insight into the way in which capturing life’s small pleasures can lead to contentment.

This is a lesson that the narrator doesn’t heed in time. He carries on like a piece of driftwood, washed up on stage, at the mercy of external forces. The key external force is, of course, The Belly Button Girl. While the narrator is like the boy who didn’t grow up (which is demonstrated by the perhaps too many counts of gross humour), she has her act together. Work, study, the future, and the intricacies of love are tackled by her with ease while he is still struggling with alarm calls and bra clasps. Although she is the focus of his desire, she remains elusive. In the future more could be done to fully flesh out her character, so the audience can see in her, and in their relationship, what the narrator does.

Full of finely drawn detail and sharp observations The Belly Button Girl is an entertaining, eccentric, bizarre, funny and human story.

Runs Until 18th May 2019.

 

 

Advertisements

Boy Child

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.

 Image: Contributed

Arachnophilia

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.
Presented Octopussouptheatre.

Punt

punt the new theatreWriters: Pius McGrath and Tara Doolan

Actor: Pius McGrath

An Honest Arts Production

 

Punt has been receiving excellent reviews since its arrival in Dublin off the back of a successful run at the Limerick Fringe 2017, so it was with interest that on a sweltering Friday evening, theatre goers sought shelter in the cool cavern of The New Theatre.

One of Jack’s earliest memories is of placing a bet at Listowel races and, amazingly, winning. This special treat, shared with his uncle Jim turned out to be the beginning of a lifetime love affair for the small town boy. The excitement and electricity of a day at the races captured the six year old and this recreational, communal activity soon became something much more dangerous. By the time Jack is off to the study in the big city he is preoccupied with making it to high stakes poker games and using his winnings to buy his way into bigger and bigger games.

At the same time internet gambling takes off. How many of us have been tempted by the free cash offers to place a bet and watch the wheel spin? Gambling becomes something meaningful and powerful in Jack’s life as it takes the space of family and former aspirations. Alongside this Ireland is booming and cash is flowing freely.

McGraph uses his body throughout the tell the story. Throwing himself about the stage with abandon and slipping into his memories and other characters with ease. When McGraph takes on the persona his best friend the comedy abounds as his thick accent and unique turn of phrase propel the narrative forward. It takes skill and confidence to be able to pull off a one man play: to hold court, dominate the stage and keep viewers interested with only your body and words. McGraph wears his character lightly. With just a chair, table and black background on which the words “bet now” flash behind him McGraph is alone on the stage as Jack becomes more and more isolated.

Punt delves into the intergenerational nature of addiction and how the big business of gambling is all around us. When I moved to Dublin it was a surprise to see how many betting shops lined the streets. Although with hope being difficult to find in these economically tough times it is not surprising that the momentary burst of optimism that Jack finds in every race, in every win, manages to sustain him for so long.

Skilfully written by McGraph and Doolan Punt is careful to avoid moralising and instead tackles the big issues through the individual story. It is through Jack that we experience the rise and fall of an addict, and it is with feeling that we watch his decline; resisting the urge to shout at the stage every time he takes the wrong step. Backed up by well timed visuals and sound effects it is easy to be carried along on this journey from hope to despair. The ending is powerful and well done.

With Punt The New Theatre continues to champion new work by promising Irish theatre makers and proves again that some of the best nights of theatre are to be found behind a socialist bookshop in Temple Bar.

Runs until July 14th 2018.

HOME

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Home – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Megan O’Malley
Director: Fiona Frawley

Who is innocent and who is guilty? Only you can decide.

Home is the sort of play that when you think you have everything figured out it turns around and surprises you. Showing at Dublin’s The New Theatre Home also introduces the talent of writer (and performer) Megan O’Malley.

Tackling head on the sexual politics of a group of college students Home starts out as a spiky comedy. Each actor gets to show off his or her comedic ability as the audience peer in on their private conversations and meetups. It doesn’t take long though before one realises that there is so much more going on. Mike and Anna are on a Tinder date. Flowers, nervous one-liners and bad drinking games ensue. If only Anna’s sister Emily were not sat in between them glowering at Mike every chance she gets. Several hours later, drunk and tired, the trio make it home. The events of that night will unravel in police statements and court testimonies. The next morning Anna cannot remember anything that happened but when she discovers that she is pregnant one bad night is about to turn into a lifetime of regret.

There are no obvious winners or losers in this sharp political commentary that couldn’t be timelier with the ever-growing conversation around the Repeal the Eighth movement. Home avoids falling into didacticism and instead shows the murky grey areas between the laws provided by the constitution and real everyday lives. The early moments of humour fall to the wayside as the audience are drawn into the drama unfolding on stage. The play’s resolution is unique and deftly conducted. To avoid giving spoilers one cannot go into further detail except to say whatever you think will happen and whatever your political beliefs you will be surprised and entertained. The sadness that spikes the final moments are poignant are heart breaking. The uncluttered staging allows the words to speak for themselves in this memorable play from the Handy Baker Theatre Company.

Runs until 3 February 2018 | Image: Contributed

SAVE + QUIT

First Written for The Reviews Hub

SAVE + QUIT – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Sophia Leuner

Director: Billie De Buitlear

Two Londoners find themselves having to decide whether it is time to move on. Two former best friends in Dublin look to see whether tragedy can bring them together once more. Save + Quit are two short plays connected by themes of moving on; of closing one chapter in life and deciding whether to walk towards another.

This is writer Sophia Leuner’s first work for the stage. It shows great ability and command of language. Comedy rubs up against pathos throughout. Class and the social divides that define a city are investigated through each character and their relationships with others. The audience laughed at the Tallaght / Dalkey romance and the city being separated by more than constant road works. The regional jokes played well in the second Dublin based half which also had some great moments of storytelling.

The young cast do particularly well at mimicking and impersonating others, switching between characters with just a change of stance. Save + Quit portrays both London and Dublin as cold and at times outright hostile places to live with the only chance for salvation being found in friendship. The isolation of urban life is picked apart as Joe and Steph struggle to manage as they move fully into their adult lives and as Cara and Dylan struggle to reconnect.

The stage is occupied only by two chairs with spotlights on each character as they speak. The hour fliess by as the face paced witty dialogue keeps the audience interested. Save + Quit is a character driven story that is full of wisdom as it unwinds. Adult growing pains are portrayed delicately, casually and with verve.

Save + Quit is a study of how we react when life throws up obstacles and changes. It is full of humour and with enough sadness to make a real impact. Worth a watch.

Runs until 20 January 2018 | Image: Contributed

The Restoration of Hope – The New Theatre, Dublin

The Restoration of Hope

The Restoration of Hope – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Philip St John

Director: Matthew Ralli

 

The Restoration of Hope is The New Theatre’s pre – Christmas offering for 2017 and it is an interesting choice. It has one of the most unusual plot lines to grace the stage this year.

The action begins in an office on the quays. A man walks in singing a medley of Christmas songs and he sets about decorating his office with tinsel. The festive cheer doesn’t last however when out of the blue a drowning woman appears. Standing inside a red triangle is the newly deceased Hope Whyte, played by Jody O’Neill. In shock it takes her a few moments to realise that she is no longer on Dun Laoghaire pier, and is instead face to face with a strange man wielding a Bounty bar.

Partly inspired by the Faust legend Hope is given the chance to be restored to life, for a limited period of time, but only if she commits to a blood soaked contract. Working with her mentor Larry McGraph, played by Nick Devlin, Hope has to decide what another shot at life is worth and whether she is the sort of person who can take that step. Added in to the mix is demon Luca, played by Shane O’Regan, who is out to capture as many souls as he can. Hope is not a normal victim; she is a single minded business woman who is prepared to negotiate even this devilish pact.

There are moments of humour throughout and the play alludes to the larger issues of the day at different moments. This individual story offers an insight into the wider issues of power, authority and revenge. At times The Restoration of Hope is dark and wicked, with it’s tongue firmly in cheek. Much of the play is a two hander between Devlin and O’Neill who bounce off each other and expose each others fears and weaknesses.

Carl Kennedy’s sound design works very well throughout. The audience enter the theatre to the sound of a Christmas theme with a dark undercurrent twinkling in the background. Lights and careful staging are used at times to create atmosphere and momentum. A driving scene is a particular pleasure. Similarly, although sparse there is a good use of props throughout (look out for the sword!).

This is the second part in The Eerie Trilogy by playwright Philip St John but it is not necessary to have seen The Temptress as The Restoration of Hope stands alone excellently. This supernatural tale is also a great anecdote to the sentimentality that predominates at this time of year.

 

Runs Until 16th December 2017.

 

Co – Produced by Speckintime and High Seas Productionss, in association with Mermaid Arts Centre and The New Theatre