Harder, Faster, More

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Harder, Faster, More – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Writer: Tracy Martin

Director: Tracy Martin

 

Harder Faster More opened to an excited audience at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre before closing to a standing ovation. The only downside is that this play is running for such a short time.

Harder Faster More tells the stories of women negotiating the modern world where sex sells and they are expected to sell it. From the female TV presenter traded in for a younger model planning extensive plastic surgery to revitalise her career, to the young woman making pornography while her sister looks after her infant son to the incredibly funny story that is cut to repeatedly of a woman juggling two calls at once; one on her sex phone line, and the other from her mother. Some of the stories are one offs. These are often touching and at times heart breaking. Several stories are resumed repeatedly throughout the performance. One of the most notable opens and closes the play. Kacey, a trained dancer, is working in clubs in Europe to make some fast money. Her increasingly intermittent calls with her best friend detail her life from excitement and humour to confusion then drug fuelled horror.

The stage is empty except for large lights pointing outwards from the back. Lighting is used throughout to highlight speakers and emphasise the stories being told. The three actresses Charlene Gleeson, Clare Monnelly and Aoibheann McCann work well together; their movements exact and cohesive. The lighting director (Susannah Cummins) and movement director (Paula O’Reilly) have clearly worked closely together to create a tight seventy minute play in which not a single moment is wasted. Each actor plays at least four different parts throughout. They all wear white and switch accents and mannerisms with each new character in an impressive dramatic feat.

A note from writer and director Tracy Martin in the programme tells us that Harder Faster More was created around the idea of tackling pornography. Taking the audience on a journey behind the scenes of the sex industry to the real lives behind it. The play surprises and entertains in equal measure. Martin avoids preaching or retelling popular tabloid tales, instead focusing on individuals in all roles of life and the way in which pornography affects their relationships with friends and family. This has been done excellently with Martin opening up a whole new angle into the subject. The use of telephone conversations to frame the dialogue allows the audience to dip inside the otherwise hidden private lives of women doing their best to survive and thrive in this daunting new world. Harder Faster More is an intelligent and humorous play that is not to be missed.

The Eurydice Project

First Written for The Reviews Hub

The Eurydice Project – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Writer: Joanna Crawley

Director: Lee Wilson

Composer: Jane Deasy

Choreographer: Monika Bieniek

Project Arts Centre is hosting a radical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth: The Eurydice Project. This time the story is told from Eurydice’s perspective. In the original myth she was an oak nymph, a child of Apollo, who wed the adoring musician Orpheus. She was a daughter of nature, at home in woods and forests. This is shown in the play by her wildness and freedom. Unconstrained by human society she is feisty, intelligent and speaks freely. Dressed in browns and earth tones with mud patterns on her limbs when she moves it is more like a dance than footsteps. In this version Orpheus is half God; returning to Thrace after his father’s death to take over the kingdom and heal the rifts that war and neglect have caused. However on his way to Thrace he bumps into Eurydice. They quickly fall in love and the story grows out of their love affair. Is it possible for a creature of the woods to adjust to city life and should Orpheus even ask this of her?

Joanna Crawley’s script investigates relationships and the nature of being a woman in modern day Ireland. Going behind the scenes The Eurydice Project opens up the doors of a male dominated society to show how women – and men – are both left suffering and confused. This version of Eurydice and Orpheus are very recognisable, as they experience loss and lack of trust. Hades rounds off the cast in a surprisingly humorous way. Dressed in purple and red velvet he is out to make trouble. A former flame of Eurydice he is not content to sit back as she pursues happiness with another. Incorporating live music, video, lighting and prose to create a visually intriguing performance with the musicians adding atmosphere and contributing to the comedy throughout. The three person cast worked very well together giving each other a chance to shine. India Mullen was sparky and as Eurydice and Michael – David McKernan and Barry McKiernan were well cast as Orpheus and Hades respectively.

The Eurydice Project skewers relationships and brings out their turning points as they love, fight and struggle to reconcile themselves to their life together. The way this is done is startlingly real; moving from tender to painful. It is a wonderful way to reinvigorate an ancient myth and use it to shine a light on modern society. Full of rage, music, fury and the cold calm of political decision making The Eurydice Project is a highly watchable and powerful piece of theatre.

Heresy

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Heresy is a remarkable electronic opera from dramaturg and composer Roger Doyle. In his first outing as composer Doyle has created a unique work that is inspired by the life and works of Renaissance figure Giordano Bruno. The Italian Dominican friar is best remembered for his cosmological theories which included, among other things that the Universe was infinite with no clear centre and he expanded upon the Copernican model with his belief in cosmic pluralism.

Although he was also a philosopher, mathematician and poet, it was his cosmological theories,  which contradicted some of the main teachings of the Church, that he is best remembered for and that, ultimately, resulted in his downfall. In the early 1590s, the Roman Inquisition arrested him for heresy. Bruno refused to recant. Eventually, he was executed in 1600 when he was burned at the stake.

In Heresy, we meet Bruno as he demonstrates his system of magic memory before the court of Henry III of France. This is followed by excerpts from his inquisition, the time he spent imprisoned and the night before his execution. The narrative gives the idea that with conviction and truth anything is possible. This is then reflected in the nature of the opera itself, which is revolutionary in its delivery. In bringing Ireland its first electronic opera, Doyle has also chosen to investigate the idea of opera itself. Doyle is the co-founder of META Production, which aims to explore new forms of opera. This ambitious work shows the best of new and explorative opera, with the use of electronic music rather that a live orchestra is a unique and daring.

There are moments of light relief and surrealist humour. Heresy has a wide variety of characters, everyone from London policemen, Elizabeth I, a French maid with pink hair, a janitor with a neat line in props and one-liners, and Henry King III of France. The singers are all accomplished, especially 14-year-old soprano Aimee Banks who plays the young Bruno. There are, however, a few moments when the music threatens to make the singers difficult to hear.

The staging is minimal. In the back centre stands a throne. At either side, scaffolding with metal ladders rises above the audience. Throughout, additional props are bought on during scene changes. With practice, this process should become smoother. On the back wall of the stage are large strip lights in bold colours – blues, reds, oranges, greens – which light up throughout to signal mood changes and narrative movement.

There are frequent costume changes. One that stands out is the red outfit of Cardinal Bellarmine, who is played by male soprano Robert Crowe. While holding a copy of The Catholic Times his red suit seems to shine. His matching red boots brand new. This contrasts with the plain black of Bruno, accessorised only with the chains that bind him. Other costumes reflect the cosmological nature of Bruno’s work; white, silver and gold.

For opera lovers and those with a keen interest in music, Heresy is a brilliant watch. It is also a good choice for those with less experience. The story is intriguing and the characters unexpected and surprising. It was this reviewer’s first experience of opera and is without a doubt a very positive one that has sparked a desire to seek out other examples of the genre.

Runs until 5 November 2016 | Image: contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub 4*

Key Word: Theatrical

DTF: Wishful Beginnings

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Writer: VERK Produksjoner Theatre Company

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Wishful Beginnings is an unusual performance piece to be included in the Dublin Theatre Festival; it coming across more as performance art than necessarily a piece of theatre. Created by Norwegian Theatre Company VERK Wishful Beginnings opens with an intentionally awkward conversation between a woman stood on one side of the audience wearing gold, and a man stood opposite her, across the audience, his clothes slowly changing throughout the conversation. She questions him. The questions encompass happiness, hopes, death and the future, all of which are explored throughout by movement, light and sudden loud, jarring noises. They go on to investigate the idea of Hamlet and action, or inaction, and the idea of listening to ghosts in order to spur one on. This idea did not however fully come through and was only made clear by the performance notes. Interestingly the group have decided to significantly decrease the size of the stage, blocking it off with wooden panelling, bringing the performers into the space of the audience.

Midway through the performance one character begins a monologue which discusses the idea of travelling through the hard and difficult stuff of life to find one’s wishful beginning. This seems to be the central theme to the work and if one can get on board with this then there is enjoyment to be had in Wishful Beginnings. Other monologues, in which the players are often in darkness except for the speaker who is illuminated, go on to discuss ecological failure, sexual dystopia and the collapse of democracy. The five performers wear body makeup, strange masks and capes that are somewhat reminiscent of ancient gods, and 10 inch white platform heels. They look both alike and very dissimilar to the audience. Improvisation, the idea of getting lost and then finding the end point are themes that run throughout the piece, however without a clear narrative or characters these ideas can be difficult to grasp. Wishful Beginnings does not allow the watcher to sit back and relax, but to be challenged. It is strange that VERK have decided to upload the entirety of the performance online before the end of their run, perhaps undermining the idea of fresh improvisation and openness each night.

Wishful Beginnings is for anyone who has an interest in experimental theatre that sets out to bush the boundaries and ideas of traditional theatre.

Runs until 8 October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival | Image: contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 2*

Key Word: Experimental

TDFF: Late Night TV Talk Show

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Created by: Cian Kinsella and Cormac Mohally

“The action packed talk show that’s all talk and no action”

Dublin’s Project Arts Centre are hosting the Late Night TV Talk Show as a part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival. The audience are greeted as they enter the auditorium by a man dressed in a bright green priest’s robe who shakes hands and has a trade in dirty jokes. At the same time a man wearing a rabbit mask is acting as DJ, the decks stacked on top of an ironing board, nibbling on a raw carrot. This same carrot is later used as a weapon against a giant cat. This genre defying show takes the form of a one hour late night TV talk show; low budget entertainment from the talented but somewhat idiotic brothers Sean and Seamus, also known as The Lords of Strut. Cian Kinsella and Cormac Mohally play both characters and also a host of others who join them on stage. At one point they are joined by a tight leather trouser wearing Michael Flatley, a cat with blue fringing, and perhaps most magnificently their mother; who delivers slapstick and rude humour aplenty when pulling a member of the audience onto the stage.

The energy never dips as they embrace their dream of hosting their own show. Very quickly however everything starts to fall apart and go wrong; with hilarious consequences. They are acrobatic and talented dancers. Scenes of gymnastic proportions are peppered among the absurd and the thrilling set pieces. Music and coloured lighting are used throughout to add to the atmosphere and help ‘warm up’ the audience. Although jokes are made about the set the costumes have been specially designed to allow for maximum comedy. The laughs kept coming as the show progressed.

Kinsella and Mohally are fresh from a successful tour of Australia and Late Night TV Talk Show is their welcome return to the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival. They began as street performers before going on to win the Street Performance World Championship in 2013. Go into the show with an open mind and allow yourself to be carried away by this one of a kind performance.

Warning: some audience participation required!

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

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 3.5*

High Octane

After Miss Julie – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

First Published March 2013

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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

The Girl Who Believed in Magic – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

First Published April 2015

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Creator: Julie Feeney

Director: Mikel Murfi

The Girl Who Believed in Magic is a unique one woman show by Julie Feeney. Galway born singer, composer and producer Feeney has achieved great success with her self-produced debut album 13 Songs, which won the Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year. Feeney’s third album Clocks went also straight to number one in the Independent Irish Album Charts on its release. Talented and experimental Feeney has bought her one woman show to Dublin’s Project Arts Centre. Songs from her first three albums are featured as are new compositions.

Although magic is mentioned in the title and features throughout the performance love seems to be the key theme that threads from beginning to end. For those unfamiliar with Feeney and her body of work one should be aware that this is not a traditional play, magic show or concert. It is a fusion of music and composition with performance to create something quite unique. Stylised and controlled this is a performance, not a play with a clear narrative.

As the audience enter the theatre the stage is empty except for a transparent screen at the front of the stage, acting as a barrier between performer and audience. Different coloured lights and images are projected onto the screen and the stage behind with Feeney often interacting with these in time to the music. Midway through this screen falls and the performance progressively becomes more intimate. Similarly, Feeney’s voice progressively increases in power throughout.

The costumes were an elaborate and enjoyable part of the performance. Created by couture designer Umit Kutluk each outfit is beautiful and tells a story in its own right. The detailing is excellent; from the glittery dresses to the matching head pieces. Starting the show in white the intensity of the costumes increases in line with the rest of the performance until Feeney is dressed in a powerful red and black ensemble. Wearing very high platform boots Feeney seems to tower above the audience. During the costume changes black and white movie clippings are shown these include a couple falling in love and a clock, counting down the time they have. The costume changes could have been smoother. There were a few moments of silence as the film ended but Feeney was not yet ready to return to the stage.

Interestingly the performance is directed by the multi-talented physical theatre artist Mikel Murfi, who last summer was seen in Enda Walshs’s Ballyturk and is touring his own production: The Man in the Woman’s Shoes. His touch is evident throughout the performance and he and Feeney appear to have worked well on their shared vision for the show.

Feeney is obviously very talented but this show does not give full expression to that, throughout the performance there is a sense of waiting for her voice to take off, which it doesn’t do until the very end. The venue was sold out on the night, half of the audience seemed a little bewildered, but the other half clearly loved every second. This is a unique performance and certainly something to go and see if you would like to do something new or are a fan of Feeney.

Photo courtesy of the Project Arts Centre. Runs until April 11th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 2.5*

Unique