Opportunities for actors

The Abbey are holding General Auditions in the second week of August (10th, 11th and 12th) and they are taking applications until this Friday, July 29th. Although it sometimes seems like the same names and faces appear in every Abbey production, so far this year there have been 16 new faces out of the 66 actors employed on the Abbey and Peacock stages and on tour. This is according to Fiach Mac Conghail (@fmacconghail), director of the Abbey on Twitter today and includes Charlie Murphy who made her début as Eliza Dolittle in the wonderful production of Pygmalion that I never got around to writing about.

Meanwhile, the other big theatre in Dublin 1, the Gate is running a workshop in audition techniques for actors next Wednesday week, August 3rd with casting director Maureen Hughes. It runs from 11am – 5pm and costs €35 which is a much cheaper that a lot of other full day workshops.

First Look: Absolut Fringe

The launch of this year’s Absolut Fringe Festival programme took place on Wednesday evening in the brand new Festival Club venue – Top of the Town on Parnell Square East (opposite the Gate Theatre and up a bit). After a few short speeches and a bit of free vodka, we got out hands on the sleek black programme! As usual, there is a whole heap of wonderful stuff there and it’s all on the website as well. I like that they have kept the same web design as last year – I like the ‘Like This / See These’ suggestions on the right hand side and the categories section is really helpful. The whole thing is organised in a useful, helpful way and I like that.

And if anyone is still unsure where to start with this massive programme, I’ve picked 10 things that I would like to see. I’m not saying that these are the best things in the festival, this is just my top ten at this moment in time!

1. Man of Valour because I love Corn Exchange and this got some great reviews at the Cork Midsummer festival last month.

2. Twenty Ten for it’s scope and ambition. THEATREclub will put all of 2010 on stage, two months a night for 6 nights and then perform the whole year again in a 6 hour performance on Saturday morning.

3. Do You Read Me? by Talking Shop Ensemble and Shaun Dunne. I loved their last show I Am a Homebird (It’s very hard) and as a life-long sceptic, I’m interested in this show about mediums and clarvoyents.

4. Where Do I Start? I saw a half-hour verison of this at The Theatre Machine Turns You On and really liked it. I’m interested to see how it works as an extended show and as it says in the programme, Nyree is “one fifth of multi ABSOLUT Fringe award winners The Company” which is reason enough to see this show!

5. The Year of Magical Wanking. I love thisispopbaby and this got rave reviews at Queer Notions late last year. I think it’s another brave, ambitious show and has the wonderful warning Contains explicit adult themes and language. I love a show with language!

6. Autobiographer by Melanie Wilson because I saw Iris Brunette in 2009 and loved it. It was a weird and wonderful show that has stayed with me for two years.

7. In My Bed because I like one-woman shows and shows in weird places. This one takes place in a car park.

8. Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think of You because that’s a great title. And it’s another one-woman show. There’s quite a few of those in this year’s Fringe!

9. Love Songs for Losers because it’s on in The Stag’s Head which seems like the perfect venue for a show set in a grimy karaoke bar. And they were giving out lollipops at the launch!

10. Pop Ceili. I caught the last two songs by these guys last year and they were brilliant! I want to see more of them this year.

That’s my 10 for the moment. Booking is already open on the website and if you book this week with the Early Bird code you can get 10% off! And then you have something to look forward to this September.

The End of the Road

Yesterday I went down to the Project Arts Centre after work hoping to get a ticket for Fishamble’s new show The End of the Road. This production is part of the Made in Temple Bar festival and when it opened for booking at the beginning of July, the tickets went fast and I wasn’t quick enough! But luckily, someone wasn’t able to make it yesterday and I got their spot!

I was interested in this show because I like the work of both the writer Gavin Kostick and the director Louise Lowe, and I wanted to see this promenade performance. The play is about the life of one man, a guy called Bill and the audience drop in and out of different moments in his life, gradually building up a picture of this man and the life he’s led.

The audience are in groups of eight and you are lead out the back of the Project by Bill’s Mam and Dad and left listening to a recording of interviews with the real Bill. This is interweaved with the voices of the actors who play Bill in the production. Each group is accompanied on their tour by their own Bill. The fours actors (John Cronin, Ronan Leahy, Michael Glenn Murphy, Robbie O’Connor, below) are all different ages but each one plays Bill at every age as we visit scenes from his life.

Robbie O'Connor, John Cronin, Ronan Leahy and Michael Glenn Murphy, Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Bill acts as a tour guide for his own life as he leads his audience down towards Fishamble Street and shares his story with them. He does this through conversation with the audience and also by letting us see it happen for ourselves. There’s an intimacy shared between the audience and the actors, you find yourself in real places – cafes, waiting rooms, pubs – ease-dropping on other people’s conversations, but these conversations happened 30 years ago. It feels a bit like time-traveling as you walk down the street and see horses and people pushing old fashioned prams and bicycles. There are boys and girls in uniform playing old-fashioned games. It feels like you are taking part in something, not just seeing a play.

The performance is well-balanced between the pieces on the street when Bill talks directly to the audience and the scenes inside the various buildings. There are wonderful performances from the main actors and also the extras on the street and I really appreciate how the performance does not talk down to the audience but allows us to piece together the story for ourselves as we more back and forwards through time.

It’s a wonderful piece of theatre where the fourth wall is completely dismantled, along with a few other theatre traditions. We’re not really dealing with a nice, neat piece of fiction – instead it’s the messy reality of someone’s life. It is performed with respect for the subject matter and the audience and you come away feeling like you have experienced something a little bit special. My only complaint was that there was no time for applause or acknowledgment. My little group ended the show standing at the end of the road, applauding the horse. He didn’t seem that bothered.

Even though it’s fully booked, it’s definitely worth trying to get a ticket for. The Project Arts Centre are running a returns list from 5.30pm each day and there are 8 shows a night until Friday. Shows are at 5.45, 6:05, 6.25, 6.45, 7:05, 7:25, 7.45 and 8.05pm. I arrived at 5.30pm and managed to get a ticket for the 6.05pm show so it’s worth giving it a try.

Theatre Production Courses July 2011

Here’s another workshop happening in Dublin this month on theatre production. I did a this workshop with Leonor a couple of years ago and found it very useful. I did it with a small group, and there was a relaxed, informal feel to the workshop which I really liked. It meant it was easy to ask questions and talk about your own work and find out what other people were up to. I got a great deal out of Leonor’s workshop and I also learnt something from the other participants.

I came away with lots of useful, practical information about budgeting and project management, but I also got a sense of what it is like to work as a performer in Dublin. I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about putting on a show but doesn’t know where to start. E-mail leo.beth@gmail.com for more details.

COURSE CONTENT: Project Management,   Budget & Finance, Dealing with the Press,  Networking for Success,  Front of House, Stage Management, Poster Design, Funding Applications, Applying to Festivals, and Making the Most of Your Show’s Future Opportunities, Touring.

Participants are given handouts on the content, templates of all tables & lists discussed in the course.

The course is delivered over 2 afternoons:
Course 1: July 23 & 24th 2pm to 6pm
Course 2: July 30th & 31st 2pm to 6pm

Cost: €80 (Reduced fees if more than one person from the same production attends. Anyone who has taken the course before is welcome for a refresher at half price)
If you are unemployed, please note FAS has funded previous participants.

Location of courses:  Dublin City (address TBC)

Limited places.

To apply for a place in this course, please email a short biography and brief description of your production plans to: leo.beth@gmail.com

Course Tutor:  Leonor Bethencourt

Festival round-up

I keep hearing about all the wonderful things happening at the Galway Arts Festival and feeling like I’m on the wrong side of the country. In case you’re feeling the same, here’s a reminder of all the things going on in Dublin over the next few weeks.

Today is Day 8 of the 10 Days in Dublin – a brand new Dublin festival, which has a great selection of music, theatre and comedy about the city. It’s also very reasonably priced! I think Trinity Orchestra plays DAFT PUNK sounds pretty wonderful, as does Bang Bang’s Forty Coats hosted by Storymap.

And from a festival that’s almost over to one that hasn’t started yet – Made in Temple Bar starts tomorrow and runs until 24 July. The big event tomorrow is High Wire Solo performed by Didier Pasquette in Temple Bar Square at 6.15pm. There are lots of exhibitions and things that are just set up in Temple Bar for the 10 day, such as An archaeology of things not old enough to be interesting, so I’m sure it will be worth wandering through the area over the next few days. I’m hoping to get tickets for The End of the Road, a play written By Gavin Kostick and directed by Louise Lowe and set in Fishamble Street. It’s fully booked but there will be a day-to-day cancellation list in the Project Arts Centre from 5.30pm each performance day. I’ll let you know if I’ve any luck.

Absolut Fringe are launching their 2011 Programme next Wednesday and the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival will announce their programme a week later. We’ll still have to wait weeks and months for the actual festivals but it’s never too early to start planning what you’re going to see! In the meantime, you can follow them both on Twitter – @dublinfringe and @DubTheatreFest

There is no shortage of great festivals in Dublin at the moment!

My_Project result

Alas, I did not win the My_Project blogger competition and will have to continue to buy my theatre tickets just like everybody else! It was very, very close at the end; if it had been a horse-race, we would have needed the photo finish! Thanks for all the votes and congratulations to Zara Doddy (whose blurb I actually really liked.) I’m glad it’s over because now I can stop begging for votes and refreshing the poll page every five minutes.

The Midsummer Night’s Dream? review below was part of my entry for the competition.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The question mark in the title of Loose Canon’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream suggests that this is not a direct translation of Shakespeare’s woodland comedy. It also highlights the dreamy side of Shakespeare’s play where nothing is quite as it seems. Despite being closer to the text than the title would suggest, Loose Canon really make this play about fairies and love-potions their own.

The cast of five play 14 characters in a play which has three different story-lines running through it. This sounds like it would be difficult to follow but the skill of the performers and the clear direction actually makes it very easy. Loose Canon’s experience with classical texts is evident in the ease with which they play with Shakespeare’s text.

There are great performances from every member of the cast as they skillfully change characters, sometimes mid-scene! Bottom (Ger Kelly) was very funny, and a proper ass even before he earned his horse’s head. Instead of the typical mischievous sprite, Phil Kingston’s Puck is droll and dead-pan in his clumpy Doc boots and pink fairy-wings. He provides a wonderful contrast to the flowery, over the top delivery of Barry O’Connor as Oberon, the King of the Fairies and the two have some wonderful scenes together. Helena and Hermione (Caitriona Ni Mhurchu and Louise Lewis, respectively) are fantastically spiteful and cruel as the warring friends who, thanks to the fairy’s meddling, end up fighting off the advances of the same man.

The set is white and clean. It is reminiscent of the set from Peter Brook’s famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1970 except in this version the clean atheistic is interrupted by the messy tables on one side of the stage. They are over-flowing with bottles of alcohol and half-full glasses, cigarettes and records, like the remains of a party. It gives the play an edge of over-indulgent debauchery.

The Peter Brook play features briefly in the clips that are played throughout the play. This multimedia aspect didn’t always work for me. At times, the jerky video clips of past productions are a nice additional layer of unrealness and it is a clever way of skimming over the less interesting parts of the play. However, sometimes they seemed to be explaining things to the audience which didn’t need explaining.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable production of Shakespeare’s well-known romantic comedy. In this version the comedy is definitely brought to front. Shakespeare’s jokes are sometimes a little bit hit and miss but this production managed to make them genuinely funny. This production is clever and funny and very much worth seeing.

My_Project competition

One day last February I was walking through Temple Bar on my way to Project Arts Centre for The Theatre Machine Turns You On, Volume 2. There was loads of great stuff on in the Project that week but I couldn’t afford to see everything. I was thinking about how great it would be if I could find a way to get free theatre tickets; if I could make my blog so famous that people would ply me with free stuff in the hope that I would write about them. I was also thinking about the Fringe Award judges – you see them during the festival with giant piles of tickets, going to three or fours a night. I’m sure it’s a stressful job, and going to see things because you have to might take some of the joy out of it, but I’ve always been a little bit envious of all those tickets!

Then, about a week later the Project Arts Centre announced their My_Project competition where one lucky winner would get tickets for all the shows in the Project and would write about them for the Project website. Someone has been listening in to my thoughts! It was just like The Secret, all I had to do was think about it and it became real! I entered the competition but sadly didn’t win. So maybe you shouldn’t base your life on The Secret after all.

However – the My_Project blogger changes every three months. They started taking entries again in June, I entered and this time – I made it to the short list!

(I wrote about Loose Canon’s Midsummer Night’s Dream? and finished the review on the morning of June 22nd when I should have been packing for Glastonbury. As a result I forgot to bring my deodorant, my camera and my alcohol with me to the festival!)

I’ve made it the short list but now I need your vote to win!

You can see the three finalists and cast your vote here.

Theatre workshops in Dublin this July

There are a few interesting workshops coming up in Dublin this month. A couple geared towards theatre makers and one for performers.

Fantasy Interventions is about writing site-specific theatre but it sounds like it would be useful for kick-starting writing for any kind of theatre. It says that the 3 day workshop will “will concern itself with the initial stages of imagination and conception….while willfully exceeding many ‘real world’ limitations (financial, structural, political, aesthetic, etc).” It’s not all about blue sky thinking however; participants will also have to present their own scenarios on the final day. There are only 10 spaces available and the closing date for applications is July 14. The workshop is on 25 – 27 July and costs €100. Visit the Project Art Centre’s website for more information.

Ahead of the Game is a two-day workshop on interactive performances, theatre games and technology. I think this will be really interesting, partly because I can’t adequately explain what it is about even though I am familiar with this type of performance. I think of it as immersive theatre and associate it with Blast Theory but I think there’s more to it than that! ‘m learning more by following Hilary O’Shaughnessy from Make & Do on Twitter – @PlayFairIrl. The workshop is on July 27-28 in Trinity College Dublin and costs €100 if you book before July 9 and €120 if you book after that date!

And finally Andy Crook and John Dawson are running another Playpen weekend. This will involve comedy improv and more general acting improv with two very good teachers. It’s the only one of the three that’s on a weekend – July 16 and 17, in the FBC building on Abbey Street – and therefore suitable for people like myself who work full time! It’s €90 for the two days.

Fight Night at Bewley’s Café Theatre

Fight Club is a one-man show about boxing. I’m not really into boxing – I’ve never watched Rocky or Million Dollar Baby and if this wasn’t a one-man and there was even the slightest possibility that I would have had to watch boxing on stage, I probably wouldn’t have gone. As it is, I’m really glad I did go and see it because it’s a really wonderful play that’s about a lot more than boxing. It’s about growing up and figuring out who you are and why you are that person.

It was developed as part of last year’s Show in a Bag and did very well at the Fringe Awards, winning Best Actor and the Bewley’s Little Gem award, both very much deserved. Aonghus Og McAnally gives a fantastic performance as the ex-boxer and new dad Dan Jr. It’s an amazingly physical performance, and the real out-of-breath sweatiness of the actor makes the emotions and struggles feel equally real. Dan Jr. is a man who is trying to be all things to all people – his girlfriend, his baby son, his estranged father. It not quite mid-life crisis territory but it’s not too far away! It’s a wonderful story, beautifully told and more than a little bit heart-breaking.

I’ve always found Bewleys Café Theatre to be a disconcerting place to see a play. I’ve seen a few shows there and because it’s a very small space and it’s very packed with tables and chairs, it’s always difficult forgot that you’re in a tiny café above Grafton Street. This show (which was written to be performed in Bewleys) uses that to it’s advantage. Dan is telling his story directly to the audience and the close, claustrophobic feel adds to the tension of the play. The pace of the play never sags – it is very well-written.

A few weeks before I saw the play, I went to a pre-application discussion for Show in a Bag 2011 where Aonghus talked about his Show in a Bag experience. He was really enthusiastic about the whole process. The collaboration between himself and the playwright Gavin Kostick seemed like a true collaboration – something that wouldn’t have existed without both people’s contributions.

It’s finished for the moment but it was built to be a touring show so I’m sure it will on again soon. Follow @RiseProdsIrl to find out when and where.