Alternative Christmas Shows

It’s the shortest day of the year and if you have successful done all your Christmas shopping, sent all your cards and feel ready to start enjoying the holiday season, why not treat yourself to some Christmassy theatre in Dublin this weekend. Here are a couple of Alternative Christmas shows:

Pinocchio, Smock Alley until Dec 22
Pinocchio, Smock Alley until Dec 22
Moonfish are back in Smock Alley with their bi-lingual version of Pincchico – Tromluí Phinocchio – A Nightmare. This was a huge success in the Dublin Fringe Festival and they have developed and added to the show since then, making it bigger and better than ever. When I first saw this show in Nun’s Island Theatre in Galway at the beginning of the year, I was impressed with how well they combined the English and Irish languages. They find clever ways to make sure that even someone like me, who has never got on particularly well with the Irish language, could understand and enjoy the show. This creative inventiveness extends to every aspect of the show; where sound effects are created live on stage and props and lighting transform the space from Geppetto’s workshop, to a dark and scary wood, to the stomach of a whale. It’s a very enjoyable show for adults and (slightly older) kids alike. It might be a bit too scary for the smallies!

It’s on tonight at 7.30pm and there are two shows on Saturday, December 22 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets available here.

Pony Panto
Pony Panto, Project Arts Centre until Dec 22
Pony Panto is probably not suitable for children but I can guarantee that adults will get some childish delight out of it. I saw Pony Dance in action for the first time during this year’s Dublin Fringe and they did not disappoint! Despite the technical and physical virtuosity, Straight to DVD was dance at it’s most tongue-in-cheek. It’s funny and silly and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s like a dance-based sketch show wonderful fun. Pony Dance and panto are a great fit and I imagine this will be an all-singing, all-dancing festive night out!

Pony Panto is on at Project Arts Centre, December 21 and 22 at 8pm. Tickets available here.

First Fortnight 2013

First Fortnight
First Fortnight
First Fortnight is an arts festival that also aims to improve mental heath awareness and help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues in this country. It happens in the first weeks of January, a very suitable time of year when we’re all feeling a little bit under the weather mentally. 2013 will be the fourth year of the festival, which is run entirely by volunteers, and they have a very exciting programme prepared.

Unsurprisingly my top two picks from the programme are theatre but they also have a selection of films, including free shorts in Filmbase at lunchtime, Le Galaxie performing at the Button Factory, a panel discussion in Earlsfort Terrance (also free), The Therapy Sessions which are music and spoken word nights in The Workman’s Club and visual arts in Filmbase. There really is something for everyone and all of it either at a very affordable price or free!

However, the First Fortnight show that you really need to see is Fishamble’s production of Silent. This is Pat Kinevane’s one-man show that has been touring the country to critical acclaim for the last couple of years. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are in for a treat and if you have seen it, I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel it requires a second viewing or have a couple of people that you want to bring along this time around. That’s my plan and I’m sure that there a more than a few people out there who feel the same. It’s on for three nights in Smock Alley (in the Main Theatre, a space which I think will suit the show very well) so book your tickets soon. Get them as a gift for someone – despite being about homelessness, it’s actually a funny, uplifting show and Pat Kinevane’s performance is just wonderful! Go! Bring a friend, maybe someone along who doesn’t think like theatre, or someone who wants to see more plays in the new year.

First Fortnight also offers another chance to see Solpadeine is my Boyfriend in the New Theatre. I missed this when it was on in the Fringe earlier this year, though I did enjoy many of the Solpadeine mints that were part of it’s promotional campaign. I listened to it as a RTE radio play a little while ago and really loved the language and the way the story unfolded. It’s a wonderful fit with that First Fortnight are trying to do. I’ve heard great things from people who did manage to see the live show so I’m looking forward to it. It’s on early in the year – 2-5 January, so you’ll need to be on your toes to catch it!

Book a few shows for First Fortnight – it means you’ll have something to look forward to in the bleak first couple of weeks in January. And having things to look forward to is good for your mental health!

Tender Napalm

A few weeks ago I talked to Erica Murray about Sugarglass Theatre’s production of Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm. The play sounded odd and interesting and I was delighted to finally see it when it opened in Project Arts Centre.

Sugarglass Theatre's Tender Napalm
Sugarglass Theatre’s Tender Napalm
Tender Napalm is set on a desert island where the two characters, Man and Woman are stranded. The wooden set manages to capture the barren landscape and the wonderful simplicity of life on a desert island. It is also beautiful to look at. The wooden poles dotted around the set could be a forest or when they are lit from within, they could be tall buildings. The flexibility of the set means the actors have a free rein to interpret the wonderful, intricate script.

It’s a very strong script. The characters create the world they’re in with their words. When Woman describes the scene she sees while writing it in her notebook she talks about the magnificent views, the colour of the sea, the softness of the sand. Man takes up the narrative and now that he is in control of what happens to them, a tsunami comes crashing down on the island. The stories they tell each other are sexy, tender or violent. And sometimes a combination of all three.

It is the relationship between the two characters that is at the crux of the play. The way the control of the story passes back and forth between them gives us more of an insight into this relationship than the words themselves. The chemistry between Aaron Heffernan and Erika Murphy adds a truthfulness to the performance. While they are telling fantastical stories of giant serpents and monkeys who feed you mangos, the way the two characters relate to each other feels very true.

There is a wonderful script at the heart of the show. It is funny and violent and fascinating. It also contains some wonderful twists and turns. Each individual set piece is intriguing and well-told but it is when they start to click together that the magnificence of the script begins to show. Each story is a small building block that makes up the couples relationship. The script is well-served well by two talented actors. Their strong performances are energetic and physically impressive.

It is a very impressive production and I’m very interested to see what Sugarglass do next.

Blue Raincoat

Blue Raincoat Theatre Academy
Blue Raincoat Theatre Academy
It was around this time last year that I first heard about Blue Raincoat. The director of the company, Niall Henry was one of our Friday speakers in Galway. He gave an interesting talk about the early days of setting up the company and keeping it going as members grew older and started having mortgages and children. This was also the first time I heard about corporeal mime which is the performance technique that Blue Raincoat are most invested in. I don’t think it’s strictly the “Blue Raincoat style” because not everyone who they perform with is trained in this technique but the founding members are and it’s kind of their big thing. All the actors have been trained in a performance style that is very physical and on stage you can see this training come through in their precision of movement and general physicality of the performance.

I saw my first Blue Raincoat production last spring when Rhinoceros came to the Town Hall Theatre in Galway. (I wrote about it for Reviewing class but not for this site.) I liked the show a lot. I thought the free-wheeling playing style of the company fitted beautifully with Ionesco’ surreal script.

The Poor Mouth is another surreal script. It was adapted for the company by Jocelyn Clarke, but he has left Flann O’Brien’s surreal stamp on it. The narrative voice of Bónapárt Ó Cúnasa is left intact, as is the strange world of Corkadoragha, in all it’s damp misery. Bónapárt is played by Ruth Lehane and her simple storytelling style is at the heart of the piece, while the rest of cast switch between a large collection of characters, including a couple of pigs and a cow. It’s almost a collection of short stories and some of the set pieces work better than others. The skill of the cast is still enjoyable to watch and the language is both weird and wonderful. As is the set, which is a large sloped map with small houses clinging to the coastline.

Blue Raincoat are running workshops in January, in voice and mime. They will be held in their performance space in Sligo, the Factory. We went there for a weekend of workshops with college and it’s a beautiful space. We only did two sessions of corporeal mime, with is barely enough to scratch the surface. It’s a very full-on discipline. They are offering one week of mime and/or one week or voice training for €100 a week. I know a few people who did it last year and found it useful and enjoyable but also very hard work. There are more details here.