Friday Five: Spring is in the Air

SpringI don’t know about you but I am ready for winter to be over. I’ve had enough of the cold weather and the dark evenings. Recently there have been some small hints that maybe spring is on it’s way. There’s that stretch in the evenings and the colourful crocuses poking up out of the grass. So here are five things that are all about looking forward to spring and summer.

  1. Be a tourist in your own town. Now is a good time to do this before everywhere gets too crowded with real tourists. Visit museums and art galleries and pretend to be on holiday. If the weather is being cooperative, get outside and wander around Glasnevin Cemetary or the Botanic Gardens. Or if you’re free during the week, take advantage of the free Wednesdays at the OPW heritage sites. On the first Wednesday of every month, there is free admission to all their sites. In Dublin this includes the state apartments at Dublin Castle, Kilmainham jail and the Casino at Marino. Here is the full list of sites.

  3. While we’re on the subject of museums, and I know I’ve already mentioned it once or twice here before, but I finally got down to Collins Barracks to see PALS last week and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a beautiful and heart-breaking show. It focuses on one group of men, the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who had played rugby together before heading out to the doomed military operation in Gallipoli. Their stories are told with all the emotion and immersion that I’ve come to expect from an ANU show. They manage to deliver small, gentle moments and big, swooping world-changing ones, and both can be equally heart-breaking. It’s a gorgeous show, go see it.

  5. Beer gardens are another joy of summer and while the weather might not be suitable just yet, that’s not stopping Project Arts Centre from celebrating their newly done-up beer garden on Friday, March 6th from 6pm. They are promising some super value drinks promotions, tasty pizzas and Siobhan Kane on the decks. And if you’re still there at 8pm, you can head in to see Carmel Winter’s new play Witness.

  7. Summer is a good time to get together with friends. Get the Boat to Vote is an initiative to encourage recent emigrants to come home for the Marriage Referendum on May 22nd by making it a bit of a occasion! Tell your friends living aboard, tell them to sign up, come home and then plan a party for all those returning emigrants.

  9. And one last shout-out to the Collaborations festival which is now in it’s final week. There are still lots of great shows to see and there is a great buzz around Smock Alley with so much on. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be part of it and I’m hoping to see some shows next week, once we’ve done our final show of In Protest Of… tonight.

Opening night excitement

It’s opening night! Tonight my play takes to the stage which is both exciting and terrifying.

Over the last few weeks I have been busy rehearsing with my wonderful, talented and generous cast – Mary Conroy and Rachel Mungra. We have been blocking scenes, cutting lines and learning about these characters and their stories. It’s been great fun to work on my own script and to see it get better as I work on it with the cast and we throw away the unnecessarily lines and add moments of movement or stillness. It feels like such a privilege to be making this piece for Collaborations and I am very grateful to Mary and Rachel for working with me to turn it into a living, breathing thing, instead of just words on a page.

Yesterday morning we went into tech in the Main Space and we got to spend four hours making that beautiful space our own. I have been thinking about lights and sounds and set and how I can use them to enhance the story we are trying to tell, without spending too much money. Yesterday we got to put all the different elements together with a basic set and a made-up lighting design. They added another aspect to the whole production. It all feels very real now.

As rehearsals progressed, I’ve been getting more and more eager to get the show in front of an audience. I think it’s good. I’m proud of the work we’ve done and I want to share it with people. Watching the tech run in the theatre yesterday, I couldn’t wait to be watching it with an audience. I am excited for opening night tonight. It’s going to be fun. I hope I’ll see you there!

Tickets will be available on the door or you can book here.


Friday Five: The Abbey’s Theatre of War

The Abbey have started putting the Theatre of War sessions online. Here are my top five talks/panels/sessions from the three days. It’s was difficult to choose only five because the symposium was full of interesting things. I’ve cheated a little bit because Day 3 hasn’t gone online yet. If it was, I would have had to include Marina Carr’s talk Art, Beauty, War about the women in Greek plays. The talks are about an hour long, the panels are closer to an hour and a half.

1. David Cotterrell, Subjective Documentary. David was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust as a war artist and sent out to capture the war in Afghanistan. His talk covers information about how the public perception of the war is managed, and how difficult (if not impossible) it is to prepare for the horrors of war. And this was in a war hospital/camp, rather than a conflict zone. It is a terrifying insight into those unseen areas and very interesting to hear it from a non-military person.

2. Patrick Cockburn talked about The Rise of the Islamic State and the situation in the Middle East. I found it fascinating to hear someone speaking so knowledgeably about a subject that I only have small, scattered chunks of information about, but very little understanding. It seems like Islamic State have appeared out of nowhere, but Cockburn described how it was really not a complete surprise. It was bubbling for a long time.

3. Artistic Response to Conflict and War. There were so many interesting people on this panel, it’s definitely worth a watch. John Scott talks about his work with survivors of torture, people who have come to Dublin. Hope Azeda talked about making theatre Rwanda and was so incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring! Dijana Milosevic speaks about DAC theatre in Belgrade and Naomi Wallace and Ismail Karim Khalidi read from her play One Short Sleepe.

4. Barriers: Responses and Reactions to Walls, Barriers and Boundaries was a panel discussion that talked about walls and barriers in Belfast and Palestine. (There’s also a great talk on how Palestine is fragmented by Ray Dolphin, if you are interested – The Fragmentation of Palestine)

5. War Correspondents was a performance from Helen Chadwick Song Theatre and it was a lovely way to end the second day. Helen interviewed war correspondents and put those interviews to song. Again, it’s a great insight into the lives and work of those people but it’s also a simple and beautiful performance piece. The songs will stick in your head! It’s not a full performance, more a taste of what the show is like.

Friday Five: Alternative Valentine’s Day outings

5ofHeartsAs a single lady I’m probably supposed to be angry and bitter about Valentine’s Day but who has time for that? I think a day dedicated to the people you love is a nice idea – nobody says it has to be all about romantic love! Plus, I’m a big fan of flowers and chocolate so I look forward to the post-Valentine’s bargains!

For those in pursuit of an alternative Valentine’s here are five non-romantic outings that can be enjoyed by couples and non-couples alike!

1. Young Hearts Run Free are taking over the Freemasons Hall for Tinsmith’s Scoop, an evening of readings by Kevin Barry, Professor Declan Kiberd, and Paula Meehan, and music by I Am The Cosmos, Brigid Power-Ryce, Scotland’s Withered Hand, and Young Hearts DJ’s. It’s supposed to be a beautiful venue and I’m sure it will be a very special night. Tickets are €14 and all proceeds will go to the Simon Community.

2. The National Campaign For the Arts and the O’Reilly Theatre are hosting a Cabaret evening on Saturday night. I’ve no idea who will be performing but I’m sure the line-up will be excellent and there will be craft beer and wine deals. Tickets are available on the door for a suggested donation of €10.

3. Lifelogging, the new exhibition at the Science Gallery launched this week. It’s all about data and the information that we share or give away. It looks really interesting, they are open 12-6pm at the weekend and it’s free!

4. If you’re looking for something a little bit lovey-dovey, Pan Pan’s Gavin Quinn has directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Abbey. It’s a contemporary interpretation set in a nursing home, but still uses Shakespeare’s original text. It has a great cast and original music and I suspect it will be a very interesting interpretation of a classic play.

5. And if Shakespeare’s not your thing, the IFI are currently showing the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup, “probably their greatest film” and guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face this Valentine’s Day. It’s on Saturday and Sunday at 6.50pm and also Wednesday and Thursday next week.

Friday Five: New writing

Last week was all about returning favourites and this week it’s about new work that will be staged over the next few weeks and months.

  1. Leper + Chip isn’t brand new, it had a very successful run at Theatre Upstairs last year but it has now transferred to the Project Arts Centre. The run finishes tomorrow and is sold out, which is brilliant for a new play from a young writer and frustrating for the last minute theatre booker. However it’s always worth looking for returns, particularly for the matinee on Saturday afternoon which will be followed by a discussion on New Writing in Contemporary Dublin. Leper + Chip was first performed in Theatre Upstairs where you can see world premiers of brand new writing almost every week, for a very reasonable price. Their next show The Swing, opens on Tuesday.
  2. Fishamble: The New Play Company are also one of the go to places for new writing and they are currently on tour with Underneath, written and performed by Pat Kinevane. This was first performed at the end of last year as part of the Limerick City of Culture programme. Any one who has seen Silent or Forgotten will know that a new Pat Kinevane play is an exciting prospect and it is on tour all over the country, from now until the beginning of July. All the dates are here.
  3. Rough Magic’s Everything Between Us may be more “new to me” than brand new because it has already won the Meyer-Whitworth Award and the Stewart Parker Trust BBC Radio Drama Award. I’m not familiar with the playwright David Ireland; he is making his Dublin debut with this play. It opens in Project next Wednesday and runs until the end of February. Rough Magic are running a series of panel discussions along side the play, as well as offering a limited number of €10 to those under 30. The panel discussions are free but ticketed.
  4. The Abbey seem to have a lot more planned for the Peacock stage this year, including a new play by Owen McCaffery who wrote the award winning Quietly. Death of a Comedian is on in March. It’s about a stand-up comedian played by Brian Doherty, who I remember fondly as a bitter and twisted comedy writer in Anthony Neilson’s God in Ruins. I saw that bleak Christmas show seven years ago and still remember his fantastic performance, amongst a wonderful ensemble cast.

  6. If you want to give it a try yourself, the Irish Writers Centre is running a course called Playwriting: Writing Towards First Production with Michelle Read who wrote one of the 24 Hour Plays last weekend. It’s for writers with some experience of theatre writing, rather than complete beginners. It starts on Tuesday 10 February, so if you want to sign up, do it now! Fishamble will be running courses in the spring for complete beginners; more details here.

Rehearsal process

Last weekend I had the immense priviage of seeing the 24 Hour Plays process up close and personal. I was Props Manager for the production so Sunday was a busy day of running around town, answering endless text messages and trying to find things on a deadline, but it was also completely fascinating. I loved seeing the plays come to life – how they changed from the words on the page as the script came hot off the presses at 7.30am on Sunday, to the first “stumble-through” with the actors by mid-morning, to the finished, polished production with lights and sound, costume and make-up by 7.30pm. Seeing the process condensed into a day was a great reminder of all the different elements that feed into a finished show.

It was also a reminder of the things that I’m failing to pay attention to in my own show. Things like sound and lights and costume. Things that I tend to ignore because I don’t have any real expertise in those areas and because it’s a small show with a non-existent budget, I don’t have any designers to advise me. I need to correct because I love shows where all those elements work seamlessly together. They can really add something to the story that you are trying to tell, giving clues to the audience about the sort of world you’re showing them and the characters that inhabit it.

Even in the very brief meetings the technical team had with each show on Sunday, and in the minuscule 20 minute tech time they had on the Abbey stage, time and consideration was given to each aspect of the production. And that’s because the 24 Hour Plays people are consummate professionals and total champs, but also because they are important! That’s the lesson I’m taking away from it – don’t forget the technical aspects of the show! Use what’s available to you.

Rehearsals for In Protest Of… are going well. I like getting other peoples input into the script and the actors seems to like the script and enjoy performing it. It doesn’t feel like a play yet, it’s still three people pottering about in a room. It hasn’t become a real piece of theatre but we’re getting there. There are only three weeks until our first performance, but after the speedy turnarounds I saw last weekend, that seems like loads of time!
Tickets are on sale here and you still have a week to avail of the Early Bird offer.

Here’s a photo of the 24 Hour Play team on the Abbey stage, shortly before they opened the house on Sunday night:
24HourGangThere are lots more photos here, from the Meet & Greet on Saturday and the finished shows on Sunday.