And Then There Were None

First written for The Reviews Hub

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Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Renee van de Schoor


Ten strangers receive a mysterious invite to a dinner party on an isolated island.

One by one, their various sordid pasts catch up with them.

One by one, they are accused.

One by one, they meet their end.

Theatre company No Drama today launched their new play And Then There Were None to a sell-out crowd at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre.

As the audience enter the theatre two actors are already onstage. Dressed as a maid and a butler they are cleaning, tidying and silently bickering. Eventually they begin to speak and the play begins. Characters arrive individually and in pairs, having travelled to the island to see Mr and Mrs Owens; the hosts of this group holiday excursion. However only the maid Ethel, played by Triona Keane, and butler Rogers, played by Noel Cahill, are there to greet them. They too are waiting on the missing couple. As stories are shared one becomes aware that no character has ever met the Owens’ and the confusion as to why they are there and who they all are begins. Soon a gramophone record is played, according to prewritten instructions. In it each person is accused of being complicit in murder.

Based on Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, And Then There Were None is the mystery play at its finest. To this day it remains the world’s bestselling mystery novel so is quite an undertaking for a theatre company’s first production of the year. The tension rises as the characters begin to unravel. Fingers point and suspicions are raised at the slightest of thing. Each actor plays their part wonderfully and moments of humour are capitalised on; from the clever use of props, such as a bear rug and the strange humour and facetiousness of Lombard, played by Peter Blennerhassett. Kate Cosgrave stands outs as Vera Claythorne, showing her spirit and her fear impressively.

The sound effects are subtle and lighting used to heighten the feeling of entrapment. At one point the stage is lit primarily by candles. The room becomes darker as the play deepens. Will anyone make it out alive? This simple change in lighting has a significant effect on the atmosphere, emphasising the feeling of isolation. Scene changes could be a little smoother, however. The stage has turned into a drawing room. A sofa and chairs in the centre with a well-used drinks cabinet to the side and a door leading to the heart of the house to the left. This is Renee van de Schoor’s first outing as director and we will hopefully see much more from her in the future.

And Then There Were None is a taught thriller that keeps the audience enraptured as they try and work out who is the killer at the same time as the characters. The two hours fly by and this production shows why this story is a classic. An evening that was suspenseful and entertaining.

Runs until 28 January 2017 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4.5*

Key Word: Suspense

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*

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

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

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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

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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