Friday Five: Festival favourites and sold-out shows.

1. I hope you got your ticket for the 24 Hour Plays on Sunday because, as predicted it has sold out, though it’s might be worth trying for returns on the night. You can also make a donation to Dublin Youth Theatre here. I am the Props Manager for the show – who knows what I’ll be sent out to find on Sunday morning!

2. A few festival favourites have returned for another run. Riverrun is on in Project until Sunday, Lippy is on in the Peacock until February 14th and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing opens in Project next Wednesday, February 4th. It’s great to get a second chance to see shows that you missed during the busy festival season.

3. But if brand new work is more your thing, there’s lots of that at Collaborations which runs from February 18th to March 7th. There are over 60 shows in this year’s festival so it’s worth having a look at the programme – there will be something there that will tickle your fancy. Early Bird tickets are available until February 11th.

4. And for those who want to make new work, the Tiger Dublin Fringe are accepting applications for their 2015 festival now. The information sessions are on February 10th at 6pm and the closing date for applications is March 13th.

5. Last week I went along to the Abbey’s Theatre of War Symposium. It was a mind-blowing few days with speakers from all over the world, talking about the beginnings of wars, the day-to-day experiences in a war zone and the aftermaths of conflict. They also talked about art and artists responses to war. As far as I know, the Abbey will be uploading all the talks in the next couple of weeks so I’ll let you know when that goes live. In the meantime, ANU launched their new show PALS – The Irish at Gallipoli this week. It’s about the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers during World War 1. It’s starts next week and will run Wednesday – Sunday until the end of April. Book now because it will sell out!

I finished a play!

I finished writing my play and sent it to a few people to get some feedback. I felt euphoria at having a completed script swiftly followed by the fear of what other people would have to say about it. There was no need for the fear because the feedback I got was all kind and lovely. I obviously choose well when I was deciding on the people to send my brand new script to because they all said nice things about it and were very encouraging and supportive! It was great to hear what other people saw in the script and that feed into the next draft.

The other really helpful thing was hearing it read by actors. The characters came into themselves more and it was really good to hear the actors’ thoughts on their characters and where they saw inconsistencies or confusion around the characters behaviour. Letting the play exist somewhere other than my computer screen was like re-potting a plant. The plant grow quickly to fill the bigger pot and the play got bigger and better.

Protest_200x200
In Protest Of…

Wednesday was the Collaborations launch night and while I was delighted to finally get my hands on the programme, it was also really interesting talking to people about the show and hearing other peoples reactions to the subject matter. My show is about protest and I spent a lot of time at the launch waving my protest sign! I’m starting to look forward to sharing the show with an audience at the end of February. Tickets are on sale now from the Smock Alley website.

And you still have one more day to donate to the crowd-finding campaign for eternal gratitude, rewards and general good vibes.

My play has now moved on to the rehearsal stage and seeing it becoming more than just words on the page is very exciting.

The 24 Hour Plays

I joined my local youth theatre – Droichead Youth Theatre in Drogheda – when I was 14 or 15. It was the late-90s and cynicism was the order of the day but in youth theatre you were allowed to care about things. It was a relief to find a place where you were allowed to be serious and enthusiastic about the things you were passionate about. It was also an escape from homework and exams and a space to figure out who I was, away from school where the need to fit in and not attract attention felt crucial. In youth theatre you were encouraged to use your imagination and voice an opinion – things that didn’t really happen in school when time was mostly spent preparing for the Leaving Cert. Youth theatre was an important part of my life, a place where I made friends and had fun but it also gave me some much-needed confidence in myself, in who I was and what I was capable of. All this is to say that I think youth theatre in a good thing. I am very much in favour of youth theatres.

Youth theatre is also where I developed my love for devised work. (In college it became more of a love-hate relationship – it’s so much harder without a director in charge!) I love devising because the end product is always greater than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a combination of the people who were in the room, and it only exists because those people spent that time together. In the early stage of rehearsals you can start the day with one clear and brilliant idea, then you hit a couple of brick-walls, have a couple of tense conversations before a comment starts an avalanche of new ideas. By the end of the day you have a whole new way to tell the story, and it’s so much better than the idea you started the day with. And the way things slot together always feels a little bit like magic. (Those are the good days – on the bad days you just keep hitting the brick walls and it’s just frustrating for everyone involved.)

24HourPlays

In a couple of weeks time, another DYT – Dublin Youth Theatre, are holding their annual fundrasier. The 24 Hour Plays is on at the Abbey Theatre for one night only, on February 1st. If you are not familiar with the 24 Hour Plays, it’s a simple idea that’s also a little bit magical. A whole host of very talented people agree to make a play in 24 Hours. Everyone comes together for the first time on Saturday night and when the curtain goes up on Sunday evening, six brand new plays will grace the Abbey stage. The audience will be entertained by stories and characters and dialogue that didn’t exist 24 hours before. I feel like it is in the same spirit of youth theatre, which was always a little bit chaotic, a little bit fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. It’s clever because people only need to volunteer 24 hours, but it’s a very busy 24 hours. The people who are being asked for money get an excellent night’s entertainment out of it, with a very starry cast and made by people who are the best in the business.

With an all-star cast that will rival Charlie and Love/Hate put together, what else would you be watching on a Sunday night? The cast includes Yasmin Akram, Glen Barry, Jonny Beauchamp, Steve Blount, Reeve Carney, Neili Conroy, Peter Coonan, Anthony Delaney, Keith Duffy, Jay Duffy, David Fennelly, David Fleming, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Lisa Garvey, Charlene Gleeson, Sarah Greene, Clara Harte, Andrea Irvine, Simone Kirby, Aonghus Óg McAnally, Rory Nolan, Caroline Morahan, Ste Murray, Marie Ruane, and Jonathan White.

The playwrights are Barbara Bergin, John Butler, Dylan Coburn Gray, Roise Goan, Kate Heffernan, and Michelle Read and the directors are Dan Colley, Gary Keegan, Oonagh Murphy, Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, Ronan Phelan, and Gerry Stembridge. There’s usually a fantastic musical guest as well so you are guaranteed an excellent night’s entertainment. This is the fourth year of the 24 Hour Plays in Dublin and every year it has sold out.

So what are you waiting for? Book your ticket now!
The Abbey website seems to be down at the moment, so if you are eager to book immediately, give them a ring on 01 87 87 222.

I’m writing a play!

collaborations15I’m writing a play. I will try not to bore on about my process because no one wants to hear about that, as Hayley Campbell succinctly pointed out in “Attention, #NaNoWriMo Fans: No One Cares How Your F***ing Novel Is Going”. (And if you feel as strongly as she does, feel free to skip to the end and just donate the funding campaign!) I’m writing a play because last year I applied to the Collaborations Festival with an idea and a few pages of script. Of course when I sent off my application I hoped that they would like it, I wanted it to be accepted; and yet when I got the email to say it was going to be part of the festival, I was terrified. Now I actually have to make this happen. It’s not just a nice idea anymore, it was something that I really have to do.

This will be the first time something I’ve written will be staged and I’m excited to have the opportunity. I’ve written little bits for devised performances but it was usually something that was improv-ed during rehearsals and I just wrote it down later. I’ve studied playwriting, in college and with the Open University and the Gaiety School of Acting, and I have written a few short plays that never got off the page. This is the first time that something I’ve sat down and made-up in my head will be performed in front of a paying audience by people who aren’t me. I’m trying not to think about it too much because when I do, it seems like an absolutely stupid, ridiculous idea.

At Theatre Forum’s “Tell A Good Story” event before Christmas, Gavin Kostick talked about Dublin Oldschool and working with its writer Emmet Kirwan. As it was a Show in a Bag show, Gavin had regular meetings with him as the show came into being. He talked about how Emmet would come in week after week with a small handful of pages which were the first five minutes of the play. He was working and reworking the beginning to get it just right, and once he got that right, the rest of the script came very quickly. I can’t do that. I need to drag myself through the first draft and try to get some sort of ending before I can see the shape of the play. I’ve decided this is because of my previous life as a computer programmer. You have to finish the programme or at least finish the chunk of code before you can run it and see if it works. It seems that I write the same way.

I slowly, slowly got through the first draft. This took a surprisingly long time considering the script is only twenty minutes long. I tend to write too much. I will say the same things three times, just to make sure the reader knows exactly what I mean. It’s not hard to reach a word count like this but it can be very difficult to move things forward. Needless to say, with my habit of over-explaining things, I am terrible at sub-text. If it manage to sneak into the script, it’s almost certainly there accidentally and I will probably ruin it as soon as I notice it by making sure everyone notices it too. I’m basically a terrible writer. I mean, I write really terrible first drafts. Then I start again at the beginning and edit them. I make them a bit less wordy, flesh out the bits I skipped over the first time around and put in the things that I only figured out when I was nearly at the end.

Now I have a script that I’m pretty happy with it. I think it does what I want it to, I’m just not sure if it does it particularly well. I need to hear it out loud. I need to know if it makes sense to other people. Writing a play on my own made me really miss devising. Making theatre is less fun without other people to bounce ideas off. I feel like the whole thing would be better if other people were contributing to it. This might be because of the type of show it is, but I think it’s my brain as well. I am looking forward to working with other brains when I start workshopping and rehearsing the script.

The Collaborations programme will be launched on the 22th of January and I will share all the details of where and when you can see my play then.

Help fund the festival:
In the meantime, the festival is running a crowd-funding campaign with some very nice festival-related rewards. If you’d like to check it out and maybe donate a few euros, you can do that here.

Of course, please don’t donate the money that you need for food or bus fare but if you are doing Dry January and would like to donate the price of a night out, that would be very nice. There will be a nice festival reward for Future You in February. And if you don’t have any spare cash, maybe you could share the campaign with your wealthier friends!

My six theatre highlights from 2014

A lot of the end of year theatre wrap-up that I’ve read over the last couple of weeks started with the number of shows that person went to see and the number of venues they visited. I don’t have have those figures for you. I didn’t count and I stopped saving ticket stubs years ago. I don’t review shows for a living, I barely even review them here any more, so these are just my personal faves. They may not be biggest or best shows of the year but they are the ones that stuck with me.

  1. In December, Dublin Oldschool blew me away. I saw one of the last shows in Project – the matinee they added when everything else sold out – so I’d heard everyone raving about it for ages before I saw it ,and I still loved it. I loved the speedy dialogue and the pace of the show, the story was told well with a nice combination of dialogue and narrative and I really liked the attention to detail – the lighting, the way the mics were used, the glitter. The two performers did a terrific job. It’s a really full-on show – I was impressed by their stamina alone! It’s a real rollercoaster of a show and just great fun. There will be another run of Dublin Oldschool, produced by Project Arts Centre but I’m not sure when. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you go next time!
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  3. Has anyone written a “best of theatre list” this year that didn’t include Ballyturk? This was another one that managed to live up to the hype. A lot of people I talked to about the show said they didn’t know what it was about or even if they really liked it but they are still impressed by the performances or the dance routines or the set. The combination of fantastic, over-the-top, sometimes slap-stick performances and this weird, twisty play about life and death really worked for me. Landmark Productions had an incredible year and I’m so happy for them. I’m also looking forward to The Walworth Farce next week.
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    Quad
    Quad

  5. Pan Pan’s Quad was part of the Dublin Dance Festival but it was originally a television play by Beckett. (You can find those performances on YouTube.) He said it should never be performed in the theatre but Pan Pan got around this by making it a performance lecture. There was a mathematician who talked about other maths problems in Beckett’s writing, with a white board to work out the maths and vegetables for some reason – I can’t remember what the vegetables were for. The actual performance of the piece was hypnotic and strangely peaceful to watch but I really enjoyed the whole crazy set-up. It reminded me of being in college – it probably helps that the Space Upstairs in Project is a bit like a lecture hall – and learning interesting but ultimately useless information.
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  7. The fact that NOW-THEN-NOW is on my best of list is further proof that I am a giant theatre nerd at heart. This was the ANU symposium as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. I have been enjoying ANU’s work for so long and it was a great chance to look back at all the pieces of the Monto cycle, how they came about, how they relate to each other and to hear about the actors experiences performing the various pieces. I really enjoyed the two days and a big thank you to ANU and CREATE for doing it.
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    CARE
    CARE

  9. CARE by WillFredd was about hospice care. I’ve had relations who went into hospices and hospitals and others who died at home and I think end of life care is a huge topic that should be given more attention that it gets. CARE was a beautiful insight into the work that is done in hospices and the wonderful service they provide. It had a really light touch and managed to focus on the workers in a way that didn’t excluding the patient. Nobody took on the role of the patient and yet the entire show was about them. It was a wonderful combination of non-naturalistic scenes, musical interludes and jokes about cake. It was excellent.
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  11. I also have to include Singlehood on this list because it’s the show I spent most of the year talking and thinking about and a show that I enjoyed a lot!