The Easy Way Out By Liam Murray –

First Published November 2014 on


It was at Dublin’s New Theatre, a cosy intimate theatre that can be accessed through a communist bookshop before opening up into a small stage, where Liam Murray made his debut as playwright. The New Theatre have dedicated a week to showcasing the best of new writing. The Easy Way Out was a wonderful opportunity to get first hand experience of watching the process from page to stage happen and to see one of the future stars of Irish theatre as they are beginning.

Murray’s play follows two brothers in their early thirties who, aside from caring for their ailing mother, have little if anything in common. Written as a joint monologue, the differences between the two brothers are shown as they take control of their own stories; their use of language and humour highlighting their personalities. The monologue format is intimate, bringing the audience quickly into the lives of the brothers. Combined with Irish colloquialism and vernacular the first person format is easily used for humour. Murray’s first play had the audience laughing within minutes despite its sometimes dark subject matter.

The younger brother (played by Aonghus Og McAnally) makes it clear that he is happy to take the easy way out which contrasts dramatically with his older brother (played by Ian Lloyd Anderson) who has plans to change his future and break out of the paralysis he finds himself in.

As the day comes to a close plans fall apart, are sabotaged and the brothers monologues increase in speed with decreasing gaps between the two’s speeches as emotions become heightened. Their behaviours step ever closer to each other and the audience’s impressions of the brothers are challenged and eventually blown away by the ending.

It was a full script reading rather than a full performance, with two chairs under two spotlights. This was all that was needed to capture the essence of the characters and project this to the audience. Showing that all that is needed to create great theatre is a well-crafted script delivered by believable, dedicated actors.

Twelfth Night | University Observer

First Published September 2014

With Purple Coat Production’s award winning production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night going on tour, Laura Marriott reviews its recent Dublin performance. For one night only, Liverpool’s award winning Purple Coat Production brought their tour of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre. They are supported by a wide range of celebrated actors including Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and with good reason.

This powerful performance of one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining love stories brought out the humour, wit and tragedy that marks the uneven path of love. Twins Viola and Sebastian are separated in a violent shipwreck leaving them washed ashore in a strange country.

Believing her brother to be dead, Viola assumes his image and identity in order to make her way in a man’s world. This leads to a tangled web of mistaken identity and confusion as Viola crosses paths with a host of characters including unsuccessful lovers Olivia and Orsino. Falling in love with Orsino, Viola finds herself cornered, unable to proclaim her love and yet at the same time is pursued by the love struck Olivia.

By choosing actors without physical similarities to play twins this version played with the idea of love at first sight and, suggested that by disguising their appearances they were able to find a love based on more than just outward appearances.

As Olivia finds herself smitten with who she believes Viola to be, the cast play with the idea of identity and homosexuality. This culminates with Olivia finding herself nearly marrying a woman before accidentally becoming involved with the real Sebastian. Performed in the Boys School of Smock Alley theatre, Purple Coat bought a sense of summer holiday romances and holidays to the tail end of the Irish summer. The theatre works excellently acoustically and its limited space pushes the actors to a greater performance.

This worked particularly well as we saw court steward Malvolio being forced to question his sanity when interrogated by the witty and surprisingly lyrical fool. Here the audience were brought on a journey through identity, sanity and madness that raised many questions for both the characters as well as the audience.

The talented and vibrant cast capitalised on the danger and excitement found in love. Like many of Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night came dangerously close to crashing into tragedy, before being salvaged as a romance. Each actor brought something special to the play, making this an incredibly watchable and enjoyable performance by a rising star company.

Our Few and Evil Days (Review) –

First Published October 2014 on

Writer and Director: Mark O’Rowe
Starring: Ian Lloyd Anderson, Sinéad Cusack, Ciarán Hinds, Charlie Murphy and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Mark O’Rowe returns to the stage for the first time since 2007’s Transmission with a deeply chilling play about the modern Irish family and the lengths people will go to for those they love. Performed at the Abbey Theatre’s main stage, this sell out performance with an all-star cast marks an interesting turn towards the more radical with this curious investigation of grief, love and family ties.

The staging is the first indication that something different, something unusual is about to unfold. The first six or so rows of seats have been removed in order to extend the set outwards, right into the audience. Designed by Paul Wills, the stage portrays a recognisable domesticity. A middle class home, its living room and kitchen/diner comes right into the stalls, bringing the audience into the heart of the lives and household of Michael and Margaret.

Played by Hinds and Cusack they are flawless as a married couple; loving, passionate, and yet deeply sad. Hiding their grief beneath the skin of routine, half-truths and lies nearly forgotten. They give deeply powerful and unforgettable performances; to the extent that one can never imagine anyone else playing these characters. Hinds is exceptional as the husband and father defeated in trying to protect those he loves.

When their daughter Adele (Murphy) brings her boyfriend Dennis (Vaughan–Lawlor) home for the first time, his interest and questioning set in motion a chain of events and discoveries that undermine the ordinariness portrayed. By scratching the surface of a secret held right at the centre of what should be a very typical family, leading towards an unexpected conclusion.

O’Rowe’s dialogue has the characters constantly cutting over and interrupting each other. They query the assumptions made in general conversation to find humour in the very Irish vernacular. Despite, or perhaps because of, the dark subject matter the play is funny. O’Rowe’s decision to direct the play himself pays off. The use of dramatic lightening halts scenes abruptly, mirroring the stops and starts in the conversation to comic effect. The comedy begins to fall into tragedy as the love and shared history that binds the family together also threatens to break them apart.

Our Few and Evil Days looks underneath the rituals and assumptions that grow up around families and couples; finding something dangerous, almost sinister. An exciting new play, Our Few and Evil Days pushes the ideas of devotion, adoration and obligation within a family to their furthest limits. The unsettling conclusion finally brings meaning to the Biblically inspired title. This is one of the few times a theatre experience will be totally new and unique; with an ending that will leave any audience moved by what they have seen.

[Image: Abbey Theatre]

National Theatre Live: A Street Car Named Desire | University Observer

First Published October 2014


With the idea of broadcasting theatre in cinemas becoming more popular, Laura Marriott reviews the recent screening of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

On Tuesday 16th September, as a part of the National Theatre Live programme, Tennessee Williams’ classic play A Street Car Named Desire was screened to cinema audiences globally. This collaborative programme of bringing the theatre into cinemas has flourished over the past year, significantly increasing the play’s audience. One can now enjoy a Young Vic production hundreds of miles away from where it is performed in London in the cheaper and more comfortable environs of one’s local cinema.

Directed by Joshua Andrews, this all-star production is the fastest selling play in the Young Vic’s history and was the ideal candidate for its first ever live broadcast.

It stars Gillian Anderson as the infamous protagonist Blanche Du Bois, a woman down on her luck who finds herself on the doorstep of her younger sister Stella, played by Vanessa Kirby. In turn Stella finds herself trapped between her sister and her brutal, magnetic husband; the volatile Stanley, played by Ben Foster. Blanche’s arrival triggers a sequence of events that leads toward an almost inevitable, tragic conclusion, as family secrets and behaviours are bought struggling into the open.

The trio work excellently together, sparking off each other and evoking the heat of 1940’s New Orleans. For Anderson this is a career defining role as she delivered one of her finest performances yet.

Williams’ knack for humour and the New Orleans vernacular keep the play from falling into melodrama, as the characters delve into the danger of desire and a violent sexuality that typifies the production.

Andrews made the interesting decision to use a slowly rotating stage so that every audience member would have a slightly different perspective. As the stage moves Blanche’s world spirals out of control and the audience are invited directly inside this little world. This particular effect may have worked excellently in the theatre but its impact was minimal on screen. The camera crew have to be commended for doing an excellent job at catching the action and atmosphere unfolding on the stage.  

Further clever lighting work and a modern soundtrack adds an edge of danger and drama at pivotal moments. The scaffolding structure of their home sometimes feels more like a prison, reflecting the way in which the characters have been trapped and held still in the sweltering heat by their sticky pasts and raw emotions.

After Miss Julie – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

First Published March 2013


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*


Creditors – The New Theatre, Dublin

First Published January 2016

Writer: August Strindberg


Adaption: David Grieg

Director: Aoife Spillane-Hinks

A revival of August Strindberg’s Creditors opened to a full house in Dublin’s’ New Theatre. Commonly seen as one of Swedish writers Strindberg’s finest plays this powerful version was adapted by Scottish playwright David Greig.

Although written in 1888 it feels very modern, the tragicomedy finds a new home in 21sr Century Dublin. Set in an unnamed seaside resort it begins with two men Adolph (Kevin C Olohan), an artist who has recently turned his attentions to sculpture, and Gustav (Ronan Leahy), a stranger with whom Adolph finds it surprisingly easy to discuss the intricacies of his marriage. As Adolph awaits the return of his wife, Tekla (Susan Bracken), he takes the audience through their life together.

Adolph had always been happy with Tekla, however, Gustav does not seem willing to let him rest in his contentment. Adolph proves easily influenced and open to Gustav’s interpretation of the dynamics of his marriage. He latches onto the fact that they nickname each other Big Sister and Little Brother. She is always in the more powerful, dominant position while he is the one being educated, shaped by her. Gustav pounces on Adolph’s insecurities, a feeling that has intensified as her success as a writer has eclipsed his as an artist. Gustav proves to be a vindictive, destructive character as he works his charms first on Adolph, and then on Tekla.

This frequently dark play is also very funny. Gustav’s opinions on men and women make the audience laugh out loud throughout the first half before the characters edge closer and closer to tragedy. The setting is sparse, timeless and allows the focus to remain on the dialogue. The cast walks on to the gentle sound of Brahms which fades away into the background. However the play ends to the sound of heavy rock music blaring out from the stages’ two front speakers. The gathering intensity of Creditors is reflected in the music which reaches a crescendo before a coming to a sudden stop.

The three-person cast interacts together excellently, bringing the story of a couple and the weight of guilt to life in a forceful 90-minute act. As the title suggests the role of debt within relationships, one being indebted to the other for educating and inspiring them for example, plays a vital role throughout the play. As they examine the themes of seduction, betrayal, revenge and gender roles within marriage, can the marriage survive?

Runs until 6 February 2016 | Image: courtesy of The New Theatre

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*


IDGTF: St. Joan – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015


Writer: Julia Pascal

Director: Katrin Hilbe

A taxi journey in the mild summer of 1995 takes the audience on an interesting turn through history. St Joan is a powerful three woman play (Samantha Pearl, Juliet Dante, Rachel Halper) that investigates ideas of nationhood and women. It asks can St Joan save a life? Could she go back through time and rescue mankind from the horrors they inflict upon each other. The play sets out to explore national identity, race and the rôle of women in history and society. Representing women as both victims of history and as those who create it. The three actors take on different identities throughout, exploring French and English identities for example and how closely related they are at times.

Highly political St Joan addresses many key issues and links their history to their present. This helps to show how the same themes and ideas have been important over time, and that even though six hundred years have passed since the birth of Joan of Arc, equality and nationhood are still controversial topics in many place, not least modern France. Joan of Arc wants to fight the English out of France but would she be so quick to rid the France of today of non-nationals? It raises questions of what it means to belong to a nation, looking into the history of migration and colonisation to question whether anyone can really make a claim to a particular nation.

The writer Pascal, has taken an innovative approach to women’s history. The figure of St Joan is based on the 15th century French heroine and later Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc; the ‘Maid or Orleans’ who wore men’s clothing and fought to free France from the English before she was eventually burned at the stake for her alleged crimes, which included witchcraft.

The staging is sparse. Metal poles and bloodied sheets portray strength and battles fought and still to be won. This is a visceral production which will hopefully be seen on the Dublin stage even after the end of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, of which St Joan is a part of. This short play is a fast paced, eloquent and well directed, keeping the narrative moving without ever losing the audience. It is a highly amusing and physical performance that is not to be missed.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 4*


IDGTF: The Astonished Heart – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015


Writer: Noel Coward

Director: Geoff O’Keeffe

The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward is a short performance running at just over an hour and playing to a packed audience as a part of Dublin’s International Gay Theatre Festival.

The audience are taken into the lives of Barbara (Michelle Reade) and Christian (Colin Walsh), a loving but not entirely happy couple in their mid – 30s. When an old school friend returns it challenges the dynamic. Barbara and Leon (Steven Masterson) instantly resume the closeness and humour that they had shared as children. Despite this, the connection between Christian and Leon is obvious from the moment they meet and Coward leaves the audience unsure of what path this relationship will take. Christian falls passionately in love with Leon but all involved are unprepared for the effect that this will have. A love triangle ensues with each character searching for love and acceptance, of themselves and within others.

The staging is minimal but effective. A bed, covered in bright red covers, takes centre stage, moving dependent on which couple are occupying the focus at that time. A blue heart, in two pieces, hangs above it and a drinks table and chair sits in the corner throughout. The sparse staging is effective and allows the story to unfold unhindered by an overly complicated set design.

One of the highlights of The Astonished Heart is the language which delves into the nature of love, relationships and acceptance without ever lecturing the audience, keeping their attention throughout. The trio of actors, from Behind the Moon Productions, work very well together to give meaning to Coward’s dialogue. Most performances at this year’s International Dublin Theatre Festival will be seen in light of the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage. This play does not sensationalise or try overly hard to make a point, instead it is so well acted and directed that questions of gender are never raised, it is simply a story of love.

The Astonished Heart is an intense piece of theatre that both entertains and leaves the audience contemplating its themes and ideas long after curtain call.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 3.5*


The Man in Two Pieces – Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

First Published April 2015


Writer: Gerard Adlum

Director: Sarah Finlay

Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs has been transformed to Ireland in 1921. Under cover of night Kerrigan’s Vaudeville troupe, which has taken up temporary residence in a country town, is joined by a nameless boy, who sees the dream of the place and thinks ‘this must be the place’. The boy runs away with this miscellaneous group headed by ring-leader and general impresario; Kerrigen.

The first sign that this play could be something special comes before the audience enter the theatre. The announcement on the programme that the character of Kerrigan, one of only two actors to grace the stage, is being played by Stephen Brennan bodes well. Brennan is a well established and accomplished actor who is perfectly cast as the spell binding Kerrigen.

The Theatre Upstairs is a cosy and intimate space, drawing the audience into the world created on stage. The stage is cluttered with strong man apparatus, the lights are often dimmed or reddish in hue as most of the play takes place at night, and gives the magic of the language and mystery chance to breathe. There is something inherently magical and intriguing about a travelling vaudeville troupe; a group of people who are not tied to place and social conventions in the way that the rest of society is. However Ireland is deeply troubled at this time and this eventually starts to permeate the troupe. As the group of misfits struggle to find their way in this changing landscape The Man in Two Pieces tries to get to the heart of not just what makes a man, but a consummate showman like Kerrigen.

The play has been well scripted by debut playwright Gerard Adlum, who has built up a solid background of acting work over the past few years and who showed great ability as an actor during this play. It is astonishing to think that this is Adlum’s debut as a playwright and Dublin audiences can only hope that it will be the start of a long successful career.

Photo courtesy of Theatre Upstairs. Runs until April 18th. 

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 4.5*


Hamlet – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: William Shakespeare


In the second part of a Shakespeare double bill at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre Purple Coat Productions present Hamlet. Hamlet (Katie King) is a young prince who is greeted by the ghost of her (Hamlet is played very well by a woman) recently deceased father. The ghost tells her that he was murdered for his crown by his treacherous brother Claudius (Lee Burnitt); who then went on to marry his widow, and Hamlet’s mother, less than two months later. Hamlet meditates on and attempts to avenge her father’s murder.

An audio-visual introduction sets the scene. It is 1980s Liverpool – birthplace of Purple Coat Productions, where rich and poor live check by jowl and there is a constant feeling of dissatisfaction; a city on the edge. The main way that this theme is carried through the play is in the costumes. Stone washed denim, Doc martens, gold jewellery, shiny leggings and bomber jackets. Purple Coat’s Denmark is a hot bed of lust and incest. The characters are fully fleshed out and little twists are made on their actions. One side effect of this is that in the first half of the play Hamlet is portrayed as being the most sane, sensible and normal character. She does not seem mad or absurd. The world around her is licentious and illegal things happen regularly in the face of the madness around her Hamlet anger and hesitation make sense. This is something which is very rarely achieved on stage but Purple Coat make it look easy.

Ophelia (Paula Lee) is a notoriously tricky rôle to pin down however in this performance Lee was one of the stand-out stars. She managed to make such vague utterances as ‘I know not what to think’ seem clear; language as an act of survival. An added element of danger and intrigue is introduced through her interactions with the men in her life. The audience first see her with her brother Laertes. Soon to leave Denmark, he makes it clear that his interests in Ophelia are not entirely familial. He has a sexual interest in her; forcing his intentions onto her. This is followed by the entrance of Polonius and his famous speech made up of now common sayings and advice, such as ‘neither a borrower or a lender be’. In this production Polonius is not a bumbling, pompous old man. He is terrifying. Going one step further he rapes his own daughter. The scene is so well acted that it seems to fit perfectly with Shakespeare’s text and it adds weight to Ophelia’s language and eventual madness. Further, Claudius has a sinister edge; he is a dangerous man prepared to kill and maim to get what he wants. He is excellently portrayed as being angry, violent, controlling. He is partnered by another difficult to capture female character: Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Caitlin Clough). Often seem as a sexually incontinent rather stupid woman here she is cocaine snorting young woman who loves her son but seems to be over taken by the events around her. All she has to offer her new husband is her body and comfort; and yet she is played delicately.

Purple Coat have managed to do something very rare and make the events in one of the world’s best known plays, seem surprising. There is an undercurrent of danger which is electrifying. As the play reached its final act, although many of the audience will know the speech, they will not know what to expect next. This is a rare and fantastic feat that is not likely to be repeated in the near future. This performance will make you see Hamlet anew and is not to be missed on its regrettably short Dublin run.

Photo courtesy of Smock Alley. Runs Until April 11th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 5*