KATIE/MAG

KATIE/MAG begins with a smartly-dressed young woman, laden down with shopping bags frantically pacing the floor. As she forces herself to carry out simple instructions – “Put down the bags. Slowly.”, “Ask for a glass of water.” we get the feeling that something has gone badly wrong.

Over the next hour the young woman, Katie (Amy O’Dwyer) walks us though her life, with help and prompts from Mags (Kelly McAuley), who played a vital role in it. We begin with Katie as a babe in arms and works our way forwards to the harrassed woman at the beginning of the play. As the play zips us past various moments, we see Katie at an unsure four year old, an easily embarrassed 13 year old and moody, rebellious 17 year old. The two actresses inhabit each moment beautifully. They transform fluidly into the different characters. O’Dwyer shows us Katie at all the different ages and moods while McAuley plays all the supporting characters – from the worried Mam to the boring lecturer and lots more inbetween. Often she manages to convey Mags attitude towards these people while she is bringing them to life.

The play gives you a brief snapshot of what’s it’s like to dumped by your best friend in primary school, or to finally start university and discover exactly how far the reality is from your expectations. These snapshots are so true and so well-realised that they leave you reeling with the remembrance of your own adolescent.

The play focuses on the close relationship between Katie and Mags but it also says a lot about women’s relationships with food, sex and ambition. None of these relationships are particularly healthy, but neither is Katie and Mags. And it only grows more destructive as the years go on.

Jennifer Rogers enjoyable script is really brought to life by the wonderful performances by the two actors. This tight two-hander asks a lot of it’s performers and they definitely deliver the goods. The set and props are kept minimal so that the focus is on the actors. They bring emotion and great story-telling to the piece, which is both funny and moving.

It’s great to see women’s stories being told on stage, especially when it is done this well.

KATIE/MAG is part of the Collaborations festival and is on in the Boy’s School in Smock Alley tonight (February 28) and Saturday at 9pm. Tickets are €10/12 and available here.

Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards 2013

Druid Theatre Company team accept the award for Best Production.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Druid Theatre Company team accept the award for Best Production.
Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
By all accounts, the big winner last night was Tom Murphy. DruidMurphy took home most of the awards, including the big one for Best Productions. They also won Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Aaron Monaghan for Conversations on a Homecoming) and Best Supporting Actress (Marie Mullen also for Conversations on a Homecoming). Garry Hynes also presented Marie Mullen with the Special Tribute Award.

Other Tom Murphy related wins were for The House at the Abbey this summer, which won Best Director for Annabelle Comyn and Best Actor for Declan Conlon.

Full list of all the winners can be found on the Irish Times website.

Aonghus Óg McAnally was the host for the evening, which began with his theatrical version of the ‘Just Saying’ video.

collaborations

Today is the first day of Collaborations 2013. This is a theatre and arts festival run by the Jack Burdell Experience and will take place in Smock Alley over the next two weeks. This is the second year of the festival. There were 16 new theatre productions in last year’s festival which has grown this year to 31 shows, 5 special events which include play readings and panel discussions, and an exhibition.

While The Theatre Machine Turns You On featured a lot of devised work, here the focus is more on New Writing. Two of last year’s productions were selected for Dublin Theatre Festival’s Play On initiative, while one of last year’s rehearsed readings is this year’s full length production.

The festival kicks off today with In Rainbows by Paperdolls at 6pm. They will be performing at 6 and 6.30pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. After that, the 6pm slot is generally taken up by double or triple bills of short works-in-progress. There are more short pieces at 7.30pm and longer pieces at 8pm and 9pm. Shows don’t run on consecutive nights and there isn’t something on in all time slots every night, which makes the programme a little difficult to get to grips with. Best to figure out what you want to see and then find out when it’s on. And there is a lot of great show on offer.

Full listings here.

One Billion Rising

1BillionRising

This year, for the first time in four years, I’m not involved in any V-Day events. I have no Vagina Monologues rehearsals to go to, no vagina cupcakes to make and no tickets to sell. I feel a bit weird about that. This year is the 15th anniversary of V-Day. I did my first V-Day event five years ago this year. Getting involved in something like that can feel really powerful. Suddenly it feels possible that you could change the world – you could re-educate people, get everyone to start being nicer to each other and treat each other with respect. The Vagina Monologues really does make people see things in a new way and I really felt that that first year. We did the show on our college campus and meet a lot of the audience in the bar afterwards, men and women who were all fired up and ready to take down the patriarchy!

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t change over night and terrible things keep happening to women all over the world. In 2008, the V-Day Spotlight Charity was New Orleans. The next time I did it, it was the Democratic Republic of Congo and the stories coming out of that country would just make you want to give up on the entire human race. Stories of entire villages of women being raped, from six month old girls to women in their sixties. Don’t let anyone tell you rape is about sex or desire. It’s not. It’s about power. It’s about putting people in their place. The terrible stories from the Congo make that very clear.

Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, is not the type of woman who gives up. Instead of throwing her hands in the air, V-Day built the City of Joy – a place where women could be safe and recover from the violence that had been done to them. Eve Ensler believes in changing the world because she seen it happen. This year she’s launched One Billion Rising – a worldwide uprising to protest the fact that one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime and a declaration that that needs to change.

There will be men and women dancing for change on the streets of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Mayo, Clare, Kerry and Tipperary. They will be joining people rising in 190 countries worldwide. So get out there, dance your socks off and feel like you could change the world. It’s a good feeling, even if it only lasts an hour or two, you still feel like you’re achieved something.

Details of all the Irish events are here.

Festival applications

Even though we’re still in the depths of winter and even summer seems a long way off, application deadlines for the Dublin Theatre Festival and the Dublin Fringe Festival are already looming.

Play On
Dublin Theatre Festival are looking for Play On participants again this year. The programme lasts from March to October and is for both new playwrights and playwrights who have had professional productions of their work staged. Successful applicants will work towards a public reading of their work as part of the Festival next October.

The deadline is this Friday, February 15 but they only accept hard-copies so get them in the post by Wednesday! More information here.

Fringe applications
The deadline for this year’s Fringe Festival is March 8 and as usual there is loads of information about everything you need to know on the Fringe website. They are also running a Pre-Application Workshop tomorrow at 6pm in Fringe HQ.

Show in a Bag
Fishamble, ITI and Fringe are running Show in a Bag again this year, unsurprisingly since it has been a great success over the last few years with shows picking up a number of Fringe awards and nominations and also having long, successful, touring lives after the Fringe. The deadline for this year’s Show in a Bag applications is March 1 and there is an information session tomorrow at 7.30pm, also in Fringe HQ. The application form and more information about how to apply is available on the Fringe website.

January Fringe Fuse

Fringe Fuse at Dublin Fringe HQ
Fringe Fuse at Dublin Fringe HQ
In the last year, Dublin Fringe Festival have moved into Sycamore House, which was the home of the Gaiety School of Acting. It’s a beautiful building with fantastic studio spaces with big windows over looking Meeting House Square. And last Monday it was full of people eager to see the new work that was being made there. It was the night of the first Fringe Fuse, a scratch night run by Fringe for theatre makers to show new work. Tickets were €3 and for that you got four short pieces of theatre and some refreshments! It’s going to be a monthly event, on the last Monday or each month and I would definitely reccomend coming along.

The first piece we saw last week was a new piece by Sonya Kelly (of Wheelchair On My Face fame) called Anywhere Else But Here about going to Austrailia to meet her in-laws. It was performed as a monologue, and was funny and endearing. It had a similar in tone to Wheelchair and Sonya performed it with her usual charm.

The second piece was a work-in-progress play called St. Patrick – The Lenged from The Gonzo Theatre Company. It was a play about the writing of the history of St. Patrick and contained some religious stories that I had never heard of, so I actually learnt something from it!

The third piece In Dog Years I’m Dead, all about turning 30 was written by Kate Heffernan and performed by Marie Ruane. It was performed as a monologue but there are plans to include a male performer as well. (As I said these are works in progress.)

The final piece was That Don’t Impress Me Much by Xnthony. It was performed with a whole lot of enthusiasim and was great fun. It was very difficult from the other pieces and it felt like the audience were just getting into it and then it was over.

The thing that struck me most was that the work was very traditional. There were three plays, with writers and actors (one performed by the writer) and a song and dance routine. This was the first Fringe Fuses so maybe people were playing it safe. I wonder if there were many applications or if people were waiting to see what happened with this first night. The four pieces were definitely in different stages of development but it’s a great opportunity to get up and test out new work in front of an audience. It’s also a brave thing to do and I appreciate the artists generousity to show us their half-finished masterpieces.

The next Fringe Fuse will be on 25 February and the deadline for applications is 15 February. If you would like to apply, email Róise and Emma at emma@fringefest.com with a short description of what you are working on and why you’d like to show it (min 250, max 600 words). More information here and on the Fringe Lab’s Facebook page. Dublin Fringe Festival are also taking applications for the 2013 Festival and all the details are on their website.

Theatre in 2012

I saw a lot of theatre this year, through college in the first half of the year and volunteering at the festivals in the autumn, but I still feel like there’s a lot that I missed. This is not a list of the ‘best of Irish theatre’ in 2012. This is a list of my personal favourites from the year.

Silent, Pat Kinevane and Fishamble
I’ve already written about some of the things I love about Silent but this 90-minute one-man play really is a complete tour de force. The LA Times described it as “Krapp’s Last Tape performed by Madonna” which is a pretty accurate description! A lot of the joy in this piece is found in Pat Kinevane’s performance. His portrayal of homeless McGoldrick, who once had splendid things, is so enthusiastic and full of fun. You don’t expect a story of homelessness and helplessness to be so funny, and this surprise adds another layer of joy to the piece.

Silent was Fishamble’s original Show in a Bag and the minimalist approach to set and props serve the story well. The story is engaging and well-told and touching without being sentimental. I saw it for the first time in the Town Hall Theatre in Galway early last year. Immediately after the show, I was eager to see it again and wanted to bring so many people to see it with me. I haven’t managed to do that yet. I missed it in the Peacock during the summer and in Smock Alley a couple of weeks ago, but I’m hoping to see it again before the year is out. The show is off to Australia this month but will be back touring Ireland in March.

Tiny Plays for Ireland, Fishamble
This is another Fishamble production and it was a fantastically ambitious project that was wonderfully executed. It started this time last year when Fishamble sent out a call in September 2011 for “tiny plays”, no more than 600 words. The response was huge and Fishamble received over 1,700 entries. The final production – twenty-five tiny plays in the space of an hour, on the same set with the same actors – was done so beautifully and so simply that it actually did create a snap-shot of the Ireland. With a clever use of costume and a few wigs, the cast manage to play teenagers, married couples and elder statesmen convincingly. Seeing the quick changes and multiple characters was part of the enjoyment of the production. There was a wonderful mix of comedy and heart-break in the production as a whole, and sometimes even in the same short play.

Because of the huge numbers of entries received and the high quality of the writing, Fishamble put together a second collection of plays and Tiny Plays 2 opens in the Project Arts Centre in March. It’s something worth seeing even if you are not a regular theatre goer or know someone who you want to encourage into the theatre! The little snippets mean that if you don’t like what’s going on onstage right now, there’ll be something different along in a minute. I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

The Mothers Arms, Little John Nee
I saw this show last January in the Town Hall Theatre. It was the first play we went to see as part of our reviewing class and so it was the first thing I had to review for that class. It was a tricky review to write because I really loved the show but found it difficult to find words to describe what happened on stage or why I enjoyed it so much.

I went in to the show knowing nothing at all about Little John Nee and came out a life-long fan. It was a joyous piece of theatre set in a the public house of the title, somewhere in the wilds of Donegal and involved lots of music and a far amount of silliness. Little John Nee is another wonderful performer and a joy to watch as he switched between seven or eight different characters. I laughed my head off and had a wonderful evening. I have yet to see his follow-up show Sparkplug but I am keeping an eye out for it and reccommend you do the same. (It is also nominated for an Irish Theatre Award for great Sound Design.)

Alice in Funderland, thisispopbaby and the Abbey Theatre
I’ll keep this brief because I’ve already written loads about Alice on this blog but it really was one of my favourite things of 2012. I often think of it when I’m sitting in the Abbey before a show, wishing there were twinkling glitter balls on the ceiling. (I’m very partial to a bit of disco ball action.) It was unlike anything else I’ve seen on the Irish stage. It really had more in common with a West End musical in the brash, brightness of the production and the slick song and dance routines. But at the same time there was a very Irish sense of humour running through and some truly beautiful songs.

Boys of Foley Street, ANU Productions
I didn’t find Boys of Foley Street quite as harrowing as last year’s Laundry, perhaps I’d been working in the Lab for two days before I saw the show so I had some idea of what to expect. However it was a visceral and heart-breaking piece of theatre, with fantastic performances.

The time spent in the flat was particularly terrifying. Much of the piece took place out on the street, so suddenly finding yourself trapped in the small flat was a bit of a shock. Seeing the hidden, private lives of people trapped by drugs and poverty made me feel helpless. The performers so in your face that you felt trapped. It was completely immersive and left me feeling sakend and disjointed.

The final piece of ANU’s Foley Street project Vardo Corner will be in Gypsy Rose’s caravan, which I imagine will have a similar terrifying claustrophobia to it!

A Doll House, Pan Pan
This was the first production I saw in the newly renovated Smock Alley main stage. I thought the round, almost Shakespearean sitting suited it beautifully. I’d read A Doll’s House for the first time last year so it was fresh in my mind. Though it’s one of those plays that I’d been aware of for years. I really enjoyed Judith Roddy’s Nora – her manic energy and childish glee in the early scenes of the play were wonderful to watch and captured Nora’s character beautiful. Pan Pan manage to be both playful and academic in their interruption of classic texts and this was no exception. The nanny takes on the role of academic analysing the play but also plays games with Nora instead of her small children.

Pan Pan have a gift for putting their own unique and memorable stamp on classical plays. For example when I think of Hamlet, I think of a Great Dane called Toby and their production of Everyone is King Lear in Their Own Home means that when I see King Lear at the Abbey next month, I’ll probably walk out with a song about “a little mouse with clogs on” stuck in head. And I will probably always hear some of the lines from A Doll’s House in the Batman voice. In a glorious twist, Torvald goes to neighbour’s costume party as Batman and when he has his confrontation with Nora, he is still in full Batman mode. No matter how familiar you are with a text, PanPan force you to see it in a fresh way. But despite this playfulness, they also have a devotion to and respect for the text. And this was seen in the climax of the play when the actors lay in separate pools of light, on opposite sides of the stage and said their lines slowly and carefully, so that all the meaning had time to sink in and we could see their relationship slowly folding itself up and disappearing. It was beautifully done.

That’s my short (and very late) wrap up of my favourite 2012 theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to see some wonderful work already this year and I will be writing about that here soon.