“Playing the Dane” in Galway

Conor Madden, one of the three potential Hamlets
Conor Madden, one of the three potential Hamlets

I saw Pan Pan’s brilliant Playing the Dane at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2010 and loved it! If you’re going to see it, some basic knowledge of the story of Hamlet will help you enjoy it because it doesn’t really tell the whole story. But it does lots of other things instead, such as the first act which consists of auditions for the the part of Hamlet. After seeing the three auditions, the audience are then asked to vote for their favourite and the winner plays Hamlet in the second act! It deconstructions the play from a number of different angles; from the actors playing the eponymous Dane to an academic interpretation of the play. It is a different take on Hamlet but it’s very entertaining, the set is beautiful and there’s an actual Great Dane in the cast!

It’s on in the Black Box theatre in Galway tonight and tomorrow, tickets available from the Town Hall Theatre. Go see it!

Festival improvements

Last week on the Irish Times theatre blog Pursued by a Bear, there was an article suggesting ways to improve the recent theatre festivals in Dublin.

Some of it is very true – shows should not run miles over their advertised time (festival time is too busy for that sort of messing) and maybe people should be encouraged more to try for returns to sell-out shows – but there are a few things I disagree with as well.

Change the dates – I couldn’t disagree more. I love that the two festivals are so close together and that you can completely over-dose on theatre throughout September and October. It makes the city feel really alive and buzzing for weeks on end. One of the arguments in favour of changing the dates given in the article is that “The chances of getting the casual theatre-goer into a show for four consecutive weeks are pretty slim.” I don’t think this is a problem because I think the Absolut Fringe and the Dublin Theatre Festival are targeting different audiences. Of course there is an overlap but I think the people who are interested in both festivals are people who go to the theatre regularly anyway, they are more than causal theatre-goers.

Ticket prices – Both festivals had reasonably priced tickets on offer this year. There were loads of €10 tickets for Fringe shows, particularly for previews, and I thought the Final Call offers from the Dublin Theatre Festival (where tickets for certain shows were available on the day from the festival box-office for €10) was fantastic. The Theatre Festival also had a wide-range of prices this year. At one end, you could see shows for €15 while seats in the Gaiety were €33. This meant people were less likely to be completely priced out of the festival.

Star attractions – I don’t think the Dublin Theatre Festival needs to hire celebrities to improve it’s appeal. Alan Rickman in John Gabriel Borkman last year was a bit of a disappointment and I think it cheapens the festival to rely on star power.

I really enjoy both the Fringe and the Theatre Festival and had trouble coming up with improvements that could be made. However here are a couple of suggestions:

Ticket lucky dip
This could be done for the Theatre Festival or the Fringe but would probably work better for the Fringe because of their cheaper ticket prices and huge range of shows. You would buy tickets for three of four different shows but you don’t know what shows until you get your tickets! Sometimes people don’t know what to see in the festival because of the huge amount of choice. This would solve that; you take a risk and go where you’re told. It might have to be very reasonably priced to encourage people to take that risk.

The Fringe Awards
You used to be able to buy tickets to the Fringe Awards. They were held in the Speilgeltent and featured short performances and winners and losers. I love awards show and I miss being able to go to this one.

If you have any suggestions, you can leave them here or over on the Irish Times blog. You can also give your feedback directly to the Dublin Theatre Festival by filling in their survey.