Theatre Discussion: Is Feminism a Dirty Word in the Theatre?

If a physical acting workshop is not your thing, maybe you’d be more interested in this panel at the Gate Lab on Thursday evening – Is Feminism a Dirty Word in the Theatre? Among the panellists is Róise Goan (Director of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2008-2013 – I wrote about her last festival in A very female Fringe), writer and performer Genevieve Hulme-Beaman who I interviewed here and Anne Clark, Artistic Director of Landmark Productions, who I’m a big fan of!

It should be an interesting discussion.

A panel of Ireland’s leading Irish theatre practitioners discuss feminism in the world of theatre. Join Anne Clarke, Róise Goan, Ingrid Craigie, Marina Carr and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman in the Gate Lab as they discuss this important and topical subject.

Gate Lab events are free, but a ticket is required.
Book in advance by contacting the Gate Theatre Box Office on 01 8744045 or emailing

Workshop Opportunity

If you’re quick you might still have time to apply for Sarah Baxter’s LeCoq workshops, happening in the new year. Email a CV, a photograph and a brief letter explaining why you would like to take part to:

A few of my teachers at Brunel and beyond were LeCoq-trained and I really enjoyed it as a way of playing and finding characters. A really simplistic way of describing it – the way I think of it – is that it is the opposite of Method Acting. Where Method is all about tapping into the “right” emotional response and building the actor from within, LeCoq is about creating the character physically and then finding the feelings from that physicality. (Bear in mind, I’m six years out of college – I’m sure there is loads more to it than that, but that’s how I remember it.)

Sarah has worked with Landmark Productions who produced Ballyturk this summer. If you saw that show, you will remember Mikel Murfi’s physically as he portrayed the various inhabitants of Ballyturk. (Along with Cillian Murphy in his underpants!) Murfi trained with Jacques LeCoq in Paris and is a very physical performer.

(Sidenote: Mikel Murfi did a Directing Masterclass with us on the MA in Galway and talked about his part in the first production of The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh. It sounded like the maddest play. Just from his description of performing it, I was eager to see it and I’m delighted that Landmark are producing it next
year. This is the Gleeson play, as I have heard it described!)

These workshops are really good value and I think the performers will have a lot of fun. Plus I bet Sarah has some good stories from her work with Landmark!

Deadline is today so email now. All the details are below.

WORKSHOP OPPORTUNITY: Physical Theatre and Devising for Performers

An eight day intensive workshop (Monday-Thursday over two weeks) for performers in LeCoq based physical theatre, ensemble play and devising for performance. Facilitated by Sarah Baxter (assistant director on Landmark Productions Howie The Rookie), participants will be invited into a space of discovery, rigour and play all accessed through a fully alive body. Over the eight days participants will partake in yoga, movement analysis, full mask work, physical expression, ensemble skills and devising techniques.

Workshops are open to all (18+) performers (actors, dancers, musicians and those from other performance backgrounds).
Cost: 100€ / eight day workshop

Workshop 1: January 5-8 and 12-15
Workshop 2: January 19-22 and 26-29
Workshop 3: February 2-5 and 9-12

Sarah is a director based in Dublin. She is a graduate of LISPA- London International School Of Performing Arts (led by Thomas Prattki, former pedagogical director of Ecole Jacques Lecoq). She has worked in London and Dublin as a director, performer, mask maker, movement director and facilitator. She has worked with companies and organisations such as Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre Company; Landmark Productions; The Gate Theatre; Young Vic Theatre and Field Day Theatre Company.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Sarah to another actor. She is intelligent, astute, has true integrity, and above all else a fierce passion and love for the theatre and the arts. A true artist.” – Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Applicants should email a CV, a photograph and a brief letter explaining why they would like to take part to:

Workshops will take place at The Lab, Foley Street, Dublin. Spaces are limited. Please indicate your preference of which workshop date you would like to attend.

Closing date for applications 30.11.2014.

All applicants will be notified shortly thereafter as to whether they have been allocated a place.

These workshops are kindly supported by Dublin City Council

#LoveTheatre Day

The Guardian and a couple of partners have declared November 19th #LoveTheatre Day. One of those partners is Twitter UK, which is the reason for the hashtag. It’s a day of celebrating theatre on twitter.

There will be one main hashtag (#LoveTheatre) to guide conversation throughout the day, with three smaller, sub-hashtags to highlight specific themes:

#BackStage (10am-12pm) will offer audiences and other arts professionals a glimpse into how a production comes together in the weeks and months leading up to the big night.

#AskATheatre (3-5pm) will offer a unique opportunity for theatre aficionados and aspiring actors to hear first-hand from the individuals and groups that make the magic happen.

#Showtime (7-10pm) will give those who can’t make it to a theatre the chance to sit in the “virtual stalls” to experience the a performance, or several, via Twitter.

Some Irish theatre companies are taking part as well.

The Lir tweeted some #BackStage photos and videos this morning, Pat Kinavin and Jim Culleton were answering questions on the Fishamble twitter, the Abbey are retweeting favourite theatre moments and The Everyman is answering questions.

The Guardian are collecting tweets here and their theatre critic Lyn Garner has tweeted some of her favourite moments.

LynGarderIt’s a nice idea – I’m in favour of celebrating theatre and hopefully the tweets will encourage people to book a ticket and see a show. The best way to #LoveTheatre is to go see something!

Update of scratch nights

After writing the piece on scratch nights last week, I only just found out that the Abbey are doing a couple of scratch nights of new writing this month. The first was last Tuesday and the second is at 8pm tonight. Apoligises for the late notice, but if you see this in time – it sounds like a very interesting evening:

The cast of ‘The Waste Ground Party’ will read works-in-progress from Darren Murphy, Elena Bolster, Jesse Weaver, John McManus, Lisa Carroll, Darren Donohue, Eugene O’Hare, Damian Kearney and a well-known special guest playwright, all directed by Resident Assistant Director Maisie Lee.

Peacock Scratch Nights are an opportunity for playwrights to try out ideas and get instant feedback. For audiences, they offer a sneak preview of up-and-coming work and the opportunity to support new artists and emerging talent.

More info here: Peacock Scratch nights

Also Fringe have announced dates and deadlines for the next Fringe Fuse. It will be on Monday 15th December at 7pm. To apply email with a short description of what you would like to present and why you’d like to show it (min 250, max 600 words). The deadline for applications is Friday 28th November at 6pm.

Fun Palaces

Devoted and Disgruntled is an annual Open Space meeting for theatre artists, organised by Improbable in London. At a D&D meeting in January 2013, Stella Duffy raised the topic of doing something to mark Joan Littlewood’s centenary in October 2014. That idea led to a session at the meeting, a few emails and tweets were sent out and it started to grow. It kept growing and growing to become Fun Palaces, a weekend of community based artistic endeavours, held in more than 130 locations all over the United Kingdom and in France, Iceland and Belgium. (How Did Fun Palaces Begin? blog post by Stella Duffy.)

Joan Littlewood, a theatre maker and director in the 1950s and 60s, is probably most well-known for the satirical musical O, What a Lovely War She was also part of an ensemble company, the Theatre Workshop which was a travelling troupe before taking up permanent residence at Stratford East. Their work was left-wing; one of their most famous productions was the British premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children in 1955 and they also championed the work of Brendan Behan. Littlewood was also fiercely interested in community theatre as well as political theatre and wanted to create a theatre of the people, bringing theatre to the streets. In 1961, Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price designed the Fun Palace – a ‘laboratory of fun’ but it never came into being.


For 2014 the Fun Palaces had the tagline “Everyone an artist, Everyone a scientist.” The aim was to bring people from different disciplines together, but more importantly to bring the community into the work. Everyone is welcome, everything is free and a special effort is made to get children involved.

Technology played a big part in getting the 2014 Fun Palaces up and running, in a way that was not possible in 1961. Twitter, email and the internet allowed people to connect with each other, to feel like they were part of a larger community, to find help, advice and encouragement. Despite all the online communication, the work really happened in the individual communities where each Fun Palace was created. There were no boxes to tick or rules to follow so each palace could make whatever it wanted, based on their resources and what their community needed. This resulted in a diverse selection of events. On the website you can search for Fun Palaces under tags such as mermaids, tea, hat-making, dog-walking, robots and much more. I watched the whole thing unfold on Twitter and found it incredibly exciting. I’m sure those we attended or organised events had a fantastic time. It seems like another theme of the weekend was that anyone can make art – there were lots of free workshops and events – and that anyone can run an event, and anyone can change the world in some small way!

The Fun Palaces success story shows what can come from someone having a good idea, sharing it with someone else and allowing that idea growing into something real. I know that’s how everything happens but because I follow Stella Duffy on twitter, I got to see this idea grow in real time and not just see the end result. I also really like the combination between technology and global engagement and the work that was done in local communities. People engaged with the idea and took ownership of it. It would be great to see a Fun Palace in Dublin next year. It might also be a model to follow for the 1916 commemorations next year, a way to engage local communities around the country in building something meaningful in their own community.

“We’ll show politicians that culture is at the heart of the community” by Stella Duffy

Scratch Nights

Scratch Nights don't generally features kittens or claws. This image is pure click-bait!
Scratch Nights don’t generally features kittens or claws. This image is pure click-bait!

The practical modules of my drama degree always included a performance as part of the assessment. This meant that at the end of term, each class had a day of performances/exams. They could be great fun, particularly if it wasn’t your class that was being assessed that day! There were five or six groups in each class so the audience (other students and the lecturers who were marking the work) would move between the different performance spaces and see five or six short pieces over a morning or afternoon. The work was brand new, often experimental and the quality could vary wildly. The pieces could be playful or dark, some might be very wordy and others would be very physical. The work generally had an unfinished feel to it because we were all making it up as we went along. This, along with the fact that you saw a lot of short pieces one after the other, meant the days performance felt a bit like a scratch night.

Scratch nights are made up of short work-in-progress pieces. Over the course of the evening you might see a 10-minute snippet of a devised piece, a rehearsed reading of a play, an improvised dance piece and a short monologue. They are an opportunity for theatre makers to try things out in front of an audience. For devised work, which might just be a collection of ideas and maybe a couple of scenes, knowing you have to show it to an audience helps you to focus those ideas. You are forced to figure out a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as the transitions between those moments.

In the same way for playwrights, having a deadline means the work gets written! Personally, I’ve found that having a deadline is often a necessary motivator in making theatre. When you know that there will be an audience sitting in a room, waiting to see your work on a specific date, it gives the work an urgency and a momentum that might not be there otherwise. Scratch nights are a relatively low risk way to get that urgency.

Putting a piece of work in front of an audience is also the only way to find out if it works or not. Does it make sense? Does it do the thing you want it to do? Theatre is all about communicating your ideas to an audience. Of course, this can be terrifying – showing your baby to the world for the first time – but in my experience scratch audiences are pretty generous. They understand that it’s a work in progress (possibly because a large portion of the audience is made up of other theatre makers!). A lot of scratch nights incorporate an element of feedback, formally or informally so at the end of the evening, you will go home having learnt a lot about your piece, for better or worse!

I really enjoyed those performance days in college because it was a free and easy way to see lots of work and you came away with your head full of images and ideas. There was a heavy lean towards live art on the course, so often you had no idea what the piece was about, you just decided if you liked it or not. It was a way to learn about your own taste in theatre, and you could also learn a lot from other people’s triumphs and failures.

Scratch nights are usually cheap; Fringe Fuse, for example, costs €3 to attend and includes refreshment. For this bargain price, you’ll see a mix of things. You won’t like everything, but there’s always the chance you might see something you love. You could discover that you love dance or spoken word or something you’d never considered before. Scratch nights let the audience try something new, as well as the artists.

I’ve already mentioned one Dublin scratch night – Fringe Fuse, which is held monthly in Fringe Lab in Temple Bar. They take a break during the festival and haven’t started up again yet, but join the Fringe mailing list or the Fringe Lab group on Facebook to keep up to date.

The Theatre Machine Turns You On, Vol. 4 is accepting applications until November 14th.

There are also two festivals at the start of next year which will show work-in-progress pieces. The set up is a bit different to a scratch night, but they are an opportunity to see new work on the cheap. Collaborations will take place in Smock Alley Theatre from February 20th to March 7th 2015 and will included finished pieces as well as works-in-progress. The THEATREclub curated festival The Theatre Machine Turns You On is only looking for work in progress pieces this time around. The festival will be in Project Arts Centre from the 22nd – 26th January 2015. It’s also still open for applications until November 14th if you have an idea that you are dying to try out.

Over the years, work from both these festivals has gone on to full productions in the Tiger Fringe Festival, in Bewleys Cafe Theatre and on tour around the country. That’s the other really important aspect of scratch nights; they can be a great spring board for new work so it’s important to remember it’s the first and not the final performance of your show.

I think scratch nights can play a vital role in helping artists create work. For lots of other thoughts and opinions on the usefulness of scratch nights, I recommend this report from Devoted and Disgrunted.