Tiger Dublin Fringe 2015: The most wonderful time of the year!

TigerFringe15It’s almost Fringe Time!! The box office is already open on Lower Ormond Quay, the Spiegeltent is going up in Wolfe Tone Square and the first previews start tomorrow! It’s all so exciting!

In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit of Fringe fan. I love that I can go see four or five shows in one day. (Time and money permitting, of course. Generally I’m either working so I’ve no time, or not working which means I’ve no money. But in an ideal world….) I love that I get to go to venues I’ve never visited before or places I didn’t know existing. I love the wide variety of shows on offer. There’s everything from late-night cabaret shows in the Spiegeltent to small, intimate lunch times shows in The Cube and New Theatre. There’s comedy and music and dance, as well as lots of theatre and the 21st birthday celebrations. There really are lots of lovely things to suit everyone’s taste.

If you are feeling over-whelmed by all the choice, Chis McCormack does a good round-up of festival over on Broadway World or you can go and talk to the lovely box office staff. They know their stuff and want you to see good art!

FringeBoxOffice2

Here’s some things that I am looking forward to over the next couple of weeks. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means. There’s so much on and I want to see all of it! I deliberately limited myself to six. I tried five, but I wanted one more!

Beckett in the City: The Women Speak
Company SJ have been doing wonderful productions of Beckett’s short plays over the last couple of years and this year they are focusing on the women. I struggle with the longer Beckett pieces so the short plays suit me, and it’s a chance to get into a building that I walked past on my way to work for years and years. The production is taking place in the historic Halla Banba on Parnell Square.

Middle of the Road by Bourgeois & Maurice and David Hoyle is my pick for the Spiegeltent because I have been faraway fans of Bourgeois & Maurice for many years and am really looking forward to seeing them live in Dublin instead of on YouTube!

LovelyRose

I want to see Oh! What a Lovely Rose! because of that great title and the wonderful image of Erica Murray that accompanies it. I also think the crazy tradition of the Rose of Tralee is something worth exploring.

Mother You is another show in a disused building. It’s sounds like it’s somewhere between an installation, an immersive theatre piece and a promenade performance and will incorporate lots of different art forms. I’m looking forward to it because it sounds a bit different and a bit odd. It also explores issues of community which I’m very interested in.

It Folds is a collaboration between dance company junk ensemble and theatre-makers Broken Talkers. They are both interesting and innovative companies so I’m interested in seeing what they come up with. My theme for Fringe seems to be “weird stuff”, and I’m ok with that.

Harder Faster More is about “the intertwined stories of modern women in a world where sex sells” and is written by Stewart Parker Award-nominee Tracy Martin. I heard good things about it when it was part of Theatre Machine at the beginning of the year. I’ve heard good things about Red Bear Production generally but haven’t had a chance to check them out yet so I’m looking forward to this.

Let the festival commence!

Irish shows at Edinburgh

One final post about the Edinburgh Festival before it wraps up this weekend. It’s really about after the festival anyway. Here are three Irish shows that are going down a storm in Edinburgh and where you can see them in Ireland.

How to Keep an AlienHow To Keep An Alien is getting rave reviews in Edinburgh, as it did in last year’s Dublin Fringe where it sold out before I got a chance to see it! Sonya Kelly’s show about getting a visa for her Australian girlfriend so she could stay in Ireland has been described as “full of lovely surreal detail and laugh-out-loud wit” and I’m looking forward to seeing it before the end of the year. I have no excuse for missing it again because it will be on all over Ireland in the autumn. There are currently 25 venues in Ireland listed on the Rough Magic website, and one in Paris! Find your nearest venue here.

UnderneathPat Kinevane’s show Underneath has got five star reviews, a Fringe First award and a Total Theatre nomination. Pat is an utterly engaging performer and his shows are a wonderful balance of funny and sad. I haven’t seen Underneath yet, and again that’s something I intend to rectify before the end of the year. It’s touring to Portumna, Cliften, Carrick on Shannon, Dun Laoghaire, Cork, Ennis and Thurles before the end of the year. Full list of tour dates here. If you’ve seen Silent, you know that you will be in for a treat.

And if you haven’t seen Silent, you can fix this by going along to Catherine’s Street Church, Thomas Street on Sept 17th. Tickets are €25.00 euro and all proceeds will go to Sophia Housing to help end homelessness. Tickets are available here. It will be a great evening’s entertainment for a very good cause.

Corn Exchange’s adaptation of Eimear McBride’s award winning novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing is also having a great run at the Edinburgh Festival. Last week it won the Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award 2015. As far as I know there isn’t any more Irish dates scheduled at the moment, but you can buy the playscript from Faber here.

Resources for Playwrights

playwright-quoteWriting a play is hard. And in my experience, finishing a play is even harder! But it’s a great feeling to reach the end of the script, especially if I’ve managed to figure out a really great ending. (This doesn’t happen that often so even a half-way decent ending leaves me delighted. Endings are hard!) It’s an accomplished, euphoric sort of feeling. But then it fades and I wonder – what now? What do you do when you finish a play?

Here are some ideas about where to do next and some more general resources for playwrights.

Hear it out-loud.
Print out a few scripts, and ask your friends nicely if they’ll take part in a reading. Promises of tea/cake/wine/future favours might be helpful here. Hearing your script out-loud is incredibly helpful. It can also be incredibly painful because you hear all the bits that don’t work, such as the clunky dialogue where your characters stop sounding like human beings. You have to sit through the boring bits and know that you are responsible for the tedium. You suddenly notice the scenes that end too quickly and the ones that drag on too long. It’s really hard but really helpful. And it’s not all bad – you get to hear the great bits too, the bits that sound so real you can’t believe they came out of your head. You’ll see connections that you didn’t realise were there, you’ll see new aspects to the characters you thought you knew inside out. It’s definitely worth the pain. Take lots of notes, and note the good stuff as well as the bad. You learn from both.
Top Tip: If the idea of showing your precious script to anyone or allowing it to be butchered in the mouths of your friends fills you with dread and horror maybe it’s not finished yet. Do another rewrite and then see how you feel.

Send it to production companies and theatres.
Depending on how the reading went, you will have a little or a lot more work to do on your script. If it was really bad you might want to tear it into little pieces. Resist that urge, hold on to the things that worked and fix the things that didn’t. Once that’s done, you can send it off to the professionals. Fishamble, the Abbey, Theatre Upstairs and The New Theatre all take unsolicited scripts. They’re much more likely to give feedback than offer to produce your play but it’s a good place to start. Make sure you read and adhere to the submission guidelines! Feedback can take months so make sure you start something new while you waiting.

Enter competitions.

Follow Stephen Gregg on twitter@playwrightnow. He’s tweets are bite-sized morsels of good advice.

Apply for the Abbey’s Playwrights Hub.

This September, as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe, the Abbey are running a series of curated workshops at the Irish Writer’s Centre. They are describing it as “a space for playwrights to question, craft and create.” Deadline for applications is this Friday – 21 August 2015.

DETAILS FOR THE PLAYWRIGHTS HUB 2015

Any interested writers will need to send an expression of interest and their writing experience to script@abbeytheatre.ie.

As the places for the Hub are strictly limited, the deadline for expression of interest will be August 21 and we will contact all applicants with the decisions by August 28.

There will be three groups of 10 playwrights and each group will have a 3 hour workshop with an established theatre maker.

Dates: 8 – 10 September, during Tiger Dublin Fringe
Time: 2 – 5pm
Location: Irish Writers’ Centre

Edinburgh or Bust

EdorBustI first became aware of the Edinburgh Fringe about 15 years ago, through a tv show on Channel 4 called “Edinburgh or Bust”. It focused on the comedy festival and followed a number of performers during the led-up to and during their month in Edinburgh. Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt were there with a show called the Arctic Boosh. Simon Munnery was on it. It was the first time I came across Jason Byrne who would later perform regularly at my college during Rag Week and Freshers Week. It made the Fringe look both terrifying and amazing. I wanted to go!

I’ve still never actually been to the festival, either with a show or as a punter but I am still fascinated with the it. I’m not sure I’d cope with the frantic pace, the endless flyering, the huge number of shows to see; not to mention the hills and the Scottish weather.

Bryony Kimmings has some wonderful words of advice for those heading the Edinburgh this August. These include things like do not flyer your own show, don’t see any other shows during the first week and eat your greens! She is in Edinburgh this year with a show about depression called Fake It ’til You Make, which I think sounds great. You can read about the making of it here.

Byrony Kimmings also gave the opening speech for this year’s festival. She talked about what the Festival means to her but also has some great tips for anyone involved in theatre, including advice on making money and making art.

In the Guardian last week, Lyn Gardner talked to artists about the cost of taking a show to the festival and what you gain by doing so. Spoiler – the gain is generally not financial. Despite focusing on the money, it’s a very upbeat article that illustrates why people do it.

FakeIt

Tim Grayburn and Bryony Kimmings in Fake It ‘Til You Make It. Photograph: Richard Davenport

And if you’re looking for some wonderful Irish shows to see in Scotland this August, I recommend Leper and Chip, How to Keep an Alien, Horsey, and Underneath.

Are you watching The Good Wife?

After a number of political posts and an accidental month-long hiatus, it’s time for something completely different. Are you watching The Good Wife? The legal drama with Carol from ER and Mary-Anne from Cybil? GoodWife I became a bit obsessed with the show last year and sped through the first four seasons, then felt bereft when I got caught up and had to wait for new episodes.

The show is about Alicia Florick (Carol from the ER) who has to go back to work after her husband – the State’s Attorney – is arrested on political corruption charges. He’s also been involved in a number of very public sex scandals. After 13 years as a wife and mother Alicia has joined a big, fancy law-firm in an entry level position and has to get used to the world of work again, while competing with graduates half her age.

If that synopsis doesn’t have you rushing to Netflix, don’t worry – I understand. My sister has been raving about The Good Wife for years but I wasn’t interested. I over-did it on court-room dramas in the nineties – Ally McBeal, Murder One, Perry Mason – and I wasn’t interested in watching another show about lawyers. Even when I did start watching it, it took me four or five episodes to decide I actually liked it. Trust me, it’s worth sticking with it.

Here are four reasons why you should do yourself a favour and watch The Good Wife.

1. Great characters that grow on you
And at the beginning, Alicia is pretty annoying. She is the political wife who stands by her man; she’s a bit of a pushover, a bit too nice, a bit of a giant cliché. She gradually comes out of that bland, catatonic shell and starts kicking ass. It’s a joy to watch. The show is very good at making you like characters that you think you’re going to hate. Cary Agos – Alicia’s competition at the firm – is played by the same actor who played Logan in Gilmore Girls. At first he seems like the same annoying, spoilt brat who is used to getting his own way with a smile and a bit of smarm. And yet, somehow I ended up liking him. Nobody was more surprised than me. (I never really warmed to Logan.)

Even the non-regular characters are great. Clients like Colin Sweeney or other lawyers, like Louis Canning, a disabled lawyer who is a master of manipulation and regularly plays up his disability in court. They are awful people that you can’t held getting attached to. It doesn’t hurt that Canning is played by the magnificent Michael J. Fox!

And then there is the wonderful Alan Cummings who plays the State Attorney’s campaign manager Eli Gold. He is sublime. I’ve been a fan since Bernard and the Genie, but in this show, which has so many fantastic, female characters – Alicia, Kalinda, boss lady Diane, crazy hot-shot lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni, scheming Patti Nyholm (who is played by one of the Goonies!) – Eli Gold is probably my favourite. He is a bit of a man’s man who has landed in a world full of strong, bossy women. I love watching him learn that he can’t tell them what to do and then slowly figure out how to work with them.
EliGold

There’s also Alan Cummings excellent facial expressions.

2. It’s all about the relationships between the characters but it’s not about relationships.
The relationships between the characters are allowed to grow slowly, the grudging respect that blossoms between Alicia and Cary, the friendship between Alicia and Kalinda, the firm’s private investigator. Alicia’s rocky relationship with her mother-in-law Jackie is great to watch, particularly when Alicia squares up to her. Alicia’s relationship with her children is also given plenty of screen-time – we see her juggling all the different aspects of her life.

It’s a show that focuses on female characters yet doesn’t revolve around their love lives. It’s probably not a coincidence that I started watching The Good Wife around the same time that I got bored of Grey’s Anatomy. (How many weddings or almost weddings has that show had?)

3. It’s a very feminist show.
Often overtly so in the cases they take and the causes that Diane supports but it’s also great to see so many women on screen at the same time. When I ran out of episodes of The Good Wife to watch and switched to House of Cards, the lack of women in that show was jarring. It felt like something was missing.

All the main characters are allowed to be flawed and have messy, complicated lives.

As an extra boost to it’s feminist credentials, it’s been name checked in Girls and Broad City, both times in weirdly sexual situations, and you know Lorelai and Rory would be tuning in religiously.

3. Great storylines – both individual cases and season arches
We see a lot of the characters personal lives but it’s still a show about lawyers so we spend a lot of time in the court room, in briefing sessions and depositions. However, the cases are interesting in their own right and not just an excuse to get the characters in the court-room together. They cover really interesting, contemporary topics. I know more about the NSA because of The Good Wife. I have a half-formed opinion on bitcoin and how it can be used to circumnavigate the law. There was a case that focused on sexual assault in the military. They created their own search engine – ChubHum and take regular pot-shots at it, often about how it’s search results are manipulated. The most recent season featured a real life, covert detention centre that is on the edge of legality. (I didn’t know that it was real until I read this article in the Guardian – ‘We’re all news junkies’: why The Good Wife writing team is one of TV’s sharpest. (WARNING: contains spoilers))

4. Great guest-stars
Surely I’m not the only one who gets great joy from seeing a familiar face pop up in another show. It pleases me to imagine that some of the guys from The Wire moved from Baltimore to Chicago and got a new job with a different drug dealer. Ugly Betty turns up in a couple of episodes, as does Chandler Bing. Gary Cole (who for me will always be the devil from American Gothic) plays a gunshot expert and Wallace Shawn (who was in The Princess Bride and Clueless) plays a frankly terrifying lawyer. Others famous faces include Nathan Lane, Rita Wilson, Parker Posey, Christina Ricci, Sarah Silverman, Jason Biggs, Jeffrey Tambor and Gloria Steinem, playing herself.

They are my reasons why you should start watching The Good Wife immediately. If you are still not convinced here’s another article from the Guardian, spoiler-free this time: Mad Men has the buzz – but The Good Wife is the better show

Dr. Mads Gilbert at PalFest Ireland

PalFest Ireland Arts Festival Supporting Palestine

Over the weekend, in Dublin and around the country, PalFest Ireland took place. It was a wonderful mix of events – music, poetry readings, lectures, meditation, a football match – all organised by volunteers. It was timed to commemorate the 51-day attack by Israel on Gaza in 2014. This was the fourth Isreali assault on Gaza since 2006. These bombardments are named military attacks, which I didn’t know.

2006 – Operation Summer Rain
2009 – Operation Cast Lead
2012 – Operation Pillar of Defence
2014 – Operation Protective Edge

And over the eight years, each attacks has been more brutal and the death toil for each assault has increased. During the 51 days in July 2014, over 2100 people were killed, 551 of them children.

I missed most of the PalFest events but I did attend the lecture by Dr. Mads Gilbert in the O’Reilly Theatre on Friday night, where I learnt all these facts. Dr. Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor from Tromsø and who has regularly worked in the Shifa hospital in Gaza over the last 15 years. He is a vocal opponent of the Israeli occupation in Gaza and the Israeli government have now banned him from entering the country. He is also a man who knows a lot about Palestine, about the Palestinian people and what life is like under the occupation and siege. He was in Gaza during the assault last year and has published a book of photos and stories about what he experienced. Friday night’s lecture was based on that book – A Night in Gaza. He had some terrifying statistics about the number of people killed and injured during those 51 days, the number of schools bombed, the paramedics who were targeted as they worked. 70% of those who died during the assault were civilians. The Israeli army claims the aim on their weapons is 90% accurate so we have to assume that these schools and hospitals, the medical personnel and journalists were all targets. Under international law, it is a war crime to deliberately target these people or buildings.

As well as the huge numbers of killed and injured there were also stories of those not included in those numbers.  Like the parents and three young children who got out of the house before the bomb fell on it and arrived in the emergency room uninjured, but completely terrified and homeless.

Dr. Gilbert was a passionate, engaging speaker, particularly when he spoke of his friends in Palestine, people he has known and worked with for many years, and their resilience. He talked about how they worked non-stop throughout the night during the worst of the bombings, about the inventiveness in the hospital because of the blockades and about their determination to rebuild their towns and cities. He has huge admiration for the Palestinian people; for their hope and their spirit under occupation. You can read more about his experiences in Gaza and an extract from the book in this Guardian article – ‘My camera is my Kalashnikov’.

Dr. Gilbert also gave the Noble Call at the Abbey after the performance of Carol Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children that was also part of PalFest.

Chris McCormack wrote an article for Broadway World last month The Art of Winning a Referendum, about how artists engaged with the Equality Referendum campaign and the effect it had on the vote. PalFest is in the same vein. It’s art with a purpose. It’s art that recognises a greater social context, art in solidarity with people who need to be seen and recognised. I think it was a wonderful thing to do, and I hope it does help the Palestinian to be recognised as part of the human family and be accorded the same human rights that the rest of that family enjoys.

I know the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is incredibly complex but there was a wonderful Malcolm X quote in Dr. Gilbert’s lecture which for me, makes things very simple.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

YES! Ireland makes history.

Just before we leave the topic of Marriage Equality, here are a couple of links about the historic weekend in Ireland.

 

Miriam Lord in the Irish Times does a wonderful job of describing the events of the day as the Yes tallies kept rolling in.

And a shout out to all those who came Home to Vote, it couldn’t have happened without them, espeically the amazing Joey Kavanagh who lead the Get the Boat to Vote initiative.

And finally, I really like Una Mullally’s article on being who you’re meant to be and how the world will change around you when you allow yourself that freedom.

Now – as President Bartlett would say, “What’s next?”