Last chance to see – Dublin theatre this week

  • Fight Night at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre until June 18th. This was one of last year’s Show in a Bag shows. It won the Bewley’s Little Gem Award at the Fringe Awards 2010, and Aonghus Óg McAnally won the Best Actor Award as well. It’s a one-man that is fast-paced, funny and moving. Go and see it any lunchtime this week.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream? by Loose Canon at Project Arts Centre until June 18th. This is a really interesting and enjoyable show. It stays close to Shakespeare’s text but still manage to make it there own. A little bit odd but very much worth seeing.
  • Pygmalion at the Abbey was going to be on this list but it closed last Saturday. It was a wonderful production with an immensely talented cast, and of course a great script by Mr. George Bernard Shaw. If this production turns up at the Abbey or elsewhere again – get your tickets quick!

There will be reviews of all these shows coming to blog later in the week. Go and see them so you can tell me how wrong or right I am!

Amy Poehler’s Awesome Harvard Speech

Amy Poehler looking wise from New York Magazine, 23 May 2011
New York Magazine, 23 May 2011 recently posted Amy Poehler’s speech to the graduating class at Harvard. She is funny and lovely throughout and also has some advice for the graduates to help them through life. The following are useful things to remember when you are doing improv and also in life!

“I moved to Chicago in the early 1990s and I studied improvisation there. I learned some rules that I try to apply still today: Listen. Say yes. Live in the moment. Make sure you play with people who have your back. Make big choices early and often. Don’t start a scene where two people are talking about jumping out of a plane. Start the scene having already jumped. If you’re scared, look into your partner’s eyes — you will feel better.”

I did a couple of improv courses with John Dawson who, life Amy Poehler, is a Second City graduate. I had these rules drilled into me in those classes. My favourite is Make big choices early and often. – I think that is great advice for life on-stage and off.

Reviewing and directing

Lyn Gardner wrote an article recently about reviewing actors’ performances which became a little bit about reviewing in general. The line “My rule is to gloss over a mediocre performance unless it comes with a star name attached” made me think about the reviews I write for this blog. It made me happy to know that I’m not the only one who wants to avoid writing a bad review. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Even though my influence is non-existant and it’s unlikely anyone involved in the production would read it, it would still feel mean. I know how much time and effort goes into a production, it seems unnecessary to dismiss all that while sitting safely behind my keyboard. If I don’t like something, I just don’t write about it. Of course, I have that luxury because I’m only really writing for myself. It nice to have people read what I write my reviews but I don’t have to answer to anyone else.

I write about the shows I like because I want to celebrate their good work and encourage people to go see it. I also think it’s useful for me because I want to create theatre, to write about it. Writing a review means I have to look at things a little more closely, to try and figure out why I enjoyed a particular piece of theatre so much. I can walk out of the theatre thinking ‘yeah, I really liked that’ but when I sit down to write about it, I have to think about what it was I liked about it, what made it so enjoyable, what made it work. (It would probably be helpful to write about shows I don’t like and try figure out why I they didn’t do anything for me, but I am a generous reviewer – if I like something, I will attribute it to the skills of the theatre makers, if I don’t like it, I’ll blame myself; I didn’t get it, it’s not my sort of thing, etc.)

I do mention acting (though I’ve never written anything as beautiful and concise as the examples in that article) because it’s something that interests me. The thing I find hard to review is directors. I find it difficult to see a director’s influence. I say this as someone who has both directed and been directed, who has been in very rehearsal rooms. I know a director’s contribution can be huge, generally is huge because it’s their vision you are seeing onstage, but with a good director you don’t really notice that. The whole thing will seem so natural and right that it’s impossible to imagine it happening any other way. That is the result of a million decisions and aborted attempts but if it’s a good show – you don’t that. I have a lot of respect and admiration for good directors, even if I don’t generally mention them in my reviews!