Pineapple at the Drogheda Arts Festival

Calipo are probably the first theatre company I fell in love with, when I saw ‘Love is the Drug’ almost 15 years ago. My geography teacher was in it. I saw Thisispopbaby‘s “Alice in Funderland” last January and it’s still one of the best things I’ve seen this year, so I’m looking forward to Calipo’s new show ‘Pineapple’, written by Mr. Thisispopbaby, Phillip McMahon. It also stars the wonderful Janet Moran, who was both hilarious and heart-breaking in ‘No Romance’ at the Peacock earlier last year.

It opens tonight in the Droichead Arts Centre, as part of the Drogheda Arts Festival, then moves first to Draiocht in Blanschardstown and then to Axis in Ballymun.

Last year was the first time I ever made it to the Drogheda Arts Festival. I always seem to be away for the May bank holiday and this year is no exception. However I am looking forward to seeing Pineapple at Axis. It’s a lovely theatre and very easy to get to from town.

V-Day Retrospective

I was surprised how nervous I felt on the day of the show. I was expecting to feel excited that the day was finally here, but ready for it; maybe not tranquil but reasonably calm. Instead I felt on edge all day, my to do list constantly hoovering at the edge of consciousness and constantly worried that I’d forgotten something. It was a stressed out restlessness that made it hard to get things done.

I arrived at The Sugar Club half an hour later than I intended to after standing at a bus stop for 15 minutes feeling sick with nerves. There was so much to do and so little time and instead of running around getting things done, I had to stand still and wait for a bus!

Once I got there and the cast started arriving and we started getting things done, I relaxed a bit. That was our first day in The Sugar Club, the first time the cast had a chance to get up on stage. There were lots of last minute decisions to be made so people didn’t walk into each other and knew when to sit and stand and speak. It was the first time we got to use the mikes. There was a lot to get through.

Almost as soon as I started to feel calm, it was time to clear out of the space in anticipation of our audience! Suddenly it all felt very real! I spent 40 minutes getting people in, greeting people I knew, checking up on the cast, how many tickets were left, etc. Technically, the show was sold out but most of the tickets were waiting at the door to be collected and paid for. We had a great crowd but we probably could have squeezed a few more in.

Finally, finally, finally the show began and there really was nothing else I could do. I’d done a little bit of directing at university but this was the first time I’d sat with a paying audience, watching a show that I had put together. I was so proud of the cast and the audience really seemed to enjoy themselves, and I enjoyed the show along with them. It was wonderful. I was beaming with happiness from the first word to the last.

It was a great night, everybody I talked to enjoyed it immensely. The cast were all a bit disappointed that we had one night. We probably could have filled The Sugar Club for a second night, at least. It was a great venue and they looked after us very well.

Thanks to our fantastically generous audience we raised $280 for the V-Day project in Haiti and €1732 for Ruhama, on our one night. Thanks also to the hard work of the cast and everyone else involved on the production it was a very successful Dublin V-Day.

Show in a Bag 2011

Fishamble, Dublin Fringe Festival and the Irish Theatre Institute have combined forces again for another round of Show in the Bag shows. It’s not surprising when last year’s shows were so successful, both in the Fringe Awards (three shows nominated for the Little Gem award, two for best male performer, both won by Fight Night) and since the end of the festival. Fight Night is on in in Bewley’s May 9 – June 11, Connected played to packed houses upstairs in the Project, and The Sit had a successful three week run at Bewley’s.

It’s a change to work with a great playwright and avail of a great deal of support from the ITI and the Fringe. It’s a fantastic opportunity because the main aim is to create to show that has a life of it’s own after the Festival and I think that is really valuable.

The closing date is Friday, 29 April and the full details can be found here.

I Am A Home Bird (it’s very hard)

I’m a bit late with this review (when am I not?), but I’ve had a week! Luckily I’m not so late that you can’t actually go and see the show. This is a good thing because you really should see this show. I’m know you’ll like it. I am a Home Bird (it’s very hard) by Talking Shop Ensemble and Shaun Dunne is on at Project Arts Centre until Saturday.

You should go and see it because it’s beautiful and funny and sad. It’s set in Ireland today and it is a heart-breaking glimpse into the effects of emigration on those who go, and especially on those who are left behind. It’s about the country we are living in today, with all it’s problems and difficulties and weird little quirks.

All the performers (and probably most of the people involved in the production) are in their early twenties but have been making theatre for the last few years. (Talking Shop were in the Fringe Festival in 2009 with Ann and Barry: What time do you call this? and in 2010 with Fat. I didn’t see either of these shows because they were so popular I couldn’t get a ticket! I saw Shaun Dunne’s Market Research This in Project Brand New a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.)

This show is a very personal story, told from a particular perspective about a specific age-group. I’m only five years older than the people on stage but their experience of leaving college and looking for work is very different to mine. My age group were lucky enough to get into jobs before the country crashed down around us so we’re still here, still working, still hoping to get a mortgage sometime in the not so distance future. Last week I was working with a college students and they seemed reasonably optimistic about the future and their job prospects after graduation. But in the middle are people like Shaun and Lisa and Ellen who have watched all their friends emigrate to London, Edinburgh, Sydney and don’t know if they’ll be back. Or if they should follow them.

The beautiful thing about the show is that even though it’s told from a very particular perspective, it’s really about Ireland. It’s about the country we are living in today and the struggles it’s going through. This wider perspective is brought into the play through the use of quotes from newspaper articles about emigration and postcards from the people who have done it.

It’s a real ensemble piece and the three performers work wonderfully together. Lisa Walsh is particularly engaging; she’s a great physical performer and a lot of her movements are both funny and beautiful to watch. This, combined with the lyrical language gives the piece a lightness.

It’s an uplifting piece of theatre that will make you feel proud to be Irish. It’s a call to arms, a plea not to abandon the country in her hour of need and instead stay and help rebuild our great nation.

Go and see it – it will make you smile and put a spring in your step this weekend!

V-day minus one

I meant to write a lot more about The Vagina Monologues while we were putting the show together. I wanted to write about the auditions, the fundraising, the rehearsals, but I was too busy to write about it while it was all happening. Now the show is almost here days away and all the tickets are sold. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll head down the The Sugar Club for some last minute preparations and before we know it, the big night will have arrived! I feel ready and excited and happy and tired.

I wanted to write something before the show because however things go tomorrow night, I am really glad I did this. I’m proud of my cast, who are amazing and have worked really hard, and I’m a little bit proud of myself too.

I had planned to submit an application to the Dublin Fringe Festival last month. I went along to the pre-application talks and workshops and then, about a week before the deadline I got a bad dose of The Fear. It completely paralysed me and meant I couldn’t do anything. I felt untalented and unimaginative. I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in anything that came out of my brain. As well as doubting my creative abilities, I had no faith in my practical skills. I just didn’t believe I would be able for the work involved. I wouldn’t be able to organise a cast or crew, I wouldn’t be able to sell my show, I wouldn’t even be able to get it to the stage where it was ready to be seen by the general public. I felt I was too old to be submitting work to the festival, too old to be working in the arts at all. This idea of making new things was a young persons game – you needed to be young and optimistic and a little bit native to take that leap of faith and believe that you will be able to cope with the consequences.

Basically I let the little, doubting voice in my head convince me that submitting anything would be a colossal waste of time.

I mention this here because I had all those fears about The Vagina Monologues last January. I was really nervous signing up to do, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to look after all the different aspects involved – finding a venue, fundraising to pay for that venue, auditioning a cast, organising rehearsals and rehearsal space, organising publicity and ticket sales, etc. I wasn’t sure if I was up to it. I was afraid.

I’m not saying the last three months have been easy – they have been really hard work – but I managed to made things happen. And people were kind and supportive and helpful all along the way. I managed to surprise myself and that’s always nice. And once or twice a week, I got to hang out with an amazing group of women.

So maybe I’m not too old after all. In the future, I will ignore the doubting voice and have a little more faith in myself. It’s a lesson I needed to be reminded of, even though it’s one I know and have seen in evidence before. But it was a good reminder and one I will cling to in the future.

Tomorrow will be an exciting night and a happy night and the end of tiring three months that have made me very proud!