Irish shows at Edinburgh

One final post about the Edinburgh Festival before it wraps up this weekend. It’s really about after the festival anyway. Here are three Irish shows that are going down a storm in Edinburgh and where you can see them in Ireland.

How to Keep an AlienHow To Keep An Alien is getting rave reviews in Edinburgh, as it did in last year’s Dublin Fringe where it sold out before I got a chance to see it! Sonya Kelly’s show about getting a visa for her Australian girlfriend so she could stay in Ireland has been described as “full of lovely surreal detail and laugh-out-loud wit” and I’m looking forward to seeing it before the end of the year. I have no excuse for missing it again because it will be on all over Ireland in the autumn. There are currently 25 venues in Ireland listed on the Rough Magic website, and one in Paris! Find your nearest venue here.

UnderneathPat Kinevane’s show Underneath has got five star reviews, a Fringe First award and a Total Theatre nomination. Pat is an utterly engaging performer and his shows are a wonderful balance of funny and sad. I haven’t seen Underneath yet, and again that’s something I intend to rectify before the end of the year. It’s touring to Portumna, Cliften, Carrick on Shannon, Dun Laoghaire, Cork, Ennis and Thurles before the end of the year. Full list of tour dates here. If you’ve seen Silent, you know that you will be in for a treat.

And if you haven’t seen Silent, you can fix this by going along to Catherine’s Street Church, Thomas Street on Sept 17th. Tickets are €25.00 euro and all proceeds will go to Sophia Housing to help end homelessness. Tickets are available here. It will be a great evening’s entertainment for a very good cause.

Corn Exchange’s adaptation of Eimear McBride’s award winning novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing is also having a great run at the Edinburgh Festival. Last week it won the Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award 2015. As far as I know there isn’t any more Irish dates scheduled at the moment, but you can buy the playscript from Faber here.

Resources for Playwrights

playwright-quoteWriting a play is hard. And in my experience, finishing a play is even harder! But it’s a great feeling to reach the end of the script, especially if I’ve managed to figure out a really great ending. (This doesn’t happen that often so even a half-way decent ending leaves me delighted. Endings are hard!) It’s an accomplished, euphoric sort of feeling. But then it fades and I wonder – what now? What do you do when you finish a play?

Here are some ideas about where to do next and some more general resources for playwrights.

Hear it out-loud.
Print out a few scripts, and ask your friends nicely if they’ll take part in a reading. Promises of tea/cake/wine/future favours might be helpful here. Hearing your script out-loud is incredibly helpful. It can also be incredibly painful because you hear all the bits that don’t work, such as the clunky dialogue where your characters stop sounding like human beings. You have to sit through the boring bits and know that you are responsible for the tedium. You suddenly notice the scenes that end too quickly and the ones that drag on too long. It’s really hard but really helpful. And it’s not all bad – you get to hear the great bits too, the bits that sound so real you can’t believe they came out of your head. You’ll see connections that you didn’t realise were there, you’ll see new aspects to the characters you thought you knew inside out. It’s definitely worth the pain. Take lots of notes, and note the good stuff as well as the bad. You learn from both.
Top Tip: If the idea of showing your precious script to anyone or allowing it to be butchered in the mouths of your friends fills you with dread and horror maybe it’s not finished yet. Do another rewrite and then see how you feel.

Send it to production companies and theatres.
Depending on how the reading went, you will have a little or a lot more work to do on your script. If it was really bad you might want to tear it into little pieces. Resist that urge, hold on to the things that worked and fix the things that didn’t. Once that’s done, you can send it off to the professionals. Fishamble, the Abbey, Theatre Upstairs and The New Theatre all take unsolicited scripts. They’re much more likely to give feedback than offer to produce your play but it’s a good place to start. Make sure you read and adhere to the submission guidelines! Feedback can take months so make sure you start something new while you waiting.

Enter competitions.

Follow Stephen Gregg on twitter@playwrightnow. He’s tweets are bite-sized morsels of good advice.

Apply for the Abbey’s Playwrights Hub.

This September, as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe, the Abbey are running a series of curated workshops at the Irish Writer’s Centre. They are describing it as “a space for playwrights to question, craft and create.” Deadline for applications is this Friday – 21 August 2015.

DETAILS FOR THE PLAYWRIGHTS HUB 2015

Any interested writers will need to send an expression of interest and their writing experience to script@abbeytheatre.ie.

As the places for the Hub are strictly limited, the deadline for expression of interest will be August 21 and we will contact all applicants with the decisions by August 28.

There will be three groups of 10 playwrights and each group will have a 3 hour workshop with an established theatre maker.

Dates: 8 – 10 September, during Tiger Dublin Fringe
Time: 2 – 5pm
Location: Irish Writers’ Centre

Edinburgh or Bust

EdorBustI first became aware of the Edinburgh Fringe about 15 years ago, through a tv show on Channel 4 called “Edinburgh or Bust”. It focused on the comedy festival and followed a number of performers during the led-up to and during their month in Edinburgh. Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt were there with a show called the Arctic Boosh. Simon Munnery was on it. It was the first time I came across Jason Byrne who would later perform regularly at my college during Rag Week and Freshers Week. It made the Fringe look both terrifying and amazing. I wanted to go!

I’ve still never actually been to the festival, either with a show or as a punter but I am still fascinated with the it. I’m not sure I’d cope with the frantic pace, the endless flyering, the huge number of shows to see; not to mention the hills and the Scottish weather.

Bryony Kimmings has some wonderful words of advice for those heading the Edinburgh this August. These include things like do not flyer your own show, don’t see any other shows during the first week and eat your greens! She is in Edinburgh this year with a show about depression called Fake It ’til You Make, which I think sounds great. You can read about the making of it here.

Byrony Kimmings also gave the opening speech for this year’s festival. She talked about what the Festival means to her but also has some great tips for anyone involved in theatre, including advice on making money and making art.

In the Guardian last week, Lyn Gardner talked to artists about the cost of taking a show to the festival and what you gain by doing so. Spoiler – the gain is generally not financial. Despite focusing on the money, it’s a very upbeat article that illustrates why people do it.

FakeIt
Tim Grayburn and Bryony Kimmings in Fake It ‘Til You Make It. Photograph: Richard Davenport

And if you’re looking for some wonderful Irish shows to see in Scotland this August, I recommend Leper and Chip, How to Keep an Alien, Horsey, and Underneath.

Are you watching The Good Wife?

After a number of political posts and an accidental month-long hiatus, it’s time for something completely different. Are you watching The Good Wife? The legal drama with Carol from ER and Mary-Anne from Cybil? GoodWife I became a bit obsessed with the show last year and sped through the first four seasons, then felt bereft when I got caught up and had to wait for new episodes.

The show is about Alicia Florick (Carol from the ER) who has to go back to work after her husband – the State’s Attorney – is arrested on political corruption charges. He’s also been involved in a number of very public sex scandals. After 13 years as a wife and mother Alicia has joined a big, fancy law-firm in an entry level position and has to get used to the world of work again, while competing with graduates half her age.

If that synopsis doesn’t have you rushing to Netflix, don’t worry – I understand. My sister has been raving about The Good Wife for years but I wasn’t interested. I over-did it on court-room dramas in the nineties – Ally McBeal, Murder One, Perry Mason – and I wasn’t interested in watching another show about lawyers. Even when I did start watching it, it took me four or five episodes to decide I actually liked it. Trust me, it’s worth sticking with it.

Here are four reasons why you should do yourself a favour and watch The Good Wife.

1. Great characters that grow on you
And at the beginning, Alicia is pretty annoying. She is the political wife who stands by her man; she’s a bit of a pushover, a bit too nice, a bit of a giant cliché. She gradually comes out of that bland, catatonic shell and starts kicking ass. It’s a joy to watch. The show is very good at making you like characters that you think you’re going to hate. Cary Agos – Alicia’s competition at the firm – is played by the same actor who played Logan in Gilmore Girls. At first he seems like the same annoying, spoilt brat who is used to getting his own way with a smile and a bit of smarm. And yet, somehow I ended up liking him. Nobody was more surprised than me. (I never really warmed to Logan.)

Even the non-regular characters are great. Clients like Colin Sweeney or other lawyers, like Louis Canning, a disabled lawyer who is a master of manipulation and regularly plays up his disability in court. They are awful people that you can’t held getting attached to. It doesn’t hurt that Canning is played by the magnificent Michael J. Fox!

And then there is the wonderful Alan Cummings who plays the State Attorney’s campaign manager Eli Gold. He is sublime. I’ve been a fan since Bernard and the Genie, but in this show, which has so many fantastic, female characters – Alicia, Kalinda, boss lady Diane, crazy hot-shot lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni, scheming Patti Nyholm (who is played by one of the Goonies!) – Eli Gold is probably my favourite. He is a bit of a man’s man who has landed in a world full of strong, bossy women. I love watching him learn that he can’t tell them what to do and then slowly figure out how to work with them.
EliGold

There’s also Alan Cummings excellent facial expressions.

2. It’s all about the relationships between the characters but it’s not about relationships.
The relationships between the characters are allowed to grow slowly, the grudging respect that blossoms between Alicia and Cary, the friendship between Alicia and Kalinda, the firm’s private investigator. Alicia’s rocky relationship with her mother-in-law Jackie is great to watch, particularly when Alicia squares up to her. Alicia’s relationship with her children is also given plenty of screen-time – we see her juggling all the different aspects of her life.

It’s a show that focuses on female characters yet doesn’t revolve around their love lives. It’s probably not a coincidence that I started watching The Good Wife around the same time that I got bored of Grey’s Anatomy. (How many weddings or almost weddings has that show had?)

3. It’s a very feminist show.
Often overtly so in the cases they take and the causes that Diane supports but it’s also great to see so many women on screen at the same time. When I ran out of episodes of The Good Wife to watch and switched to House of Cards, the lack of women in that show was jarring. It felt like something was missing.

All the main characters are allowed to be flawed and have messy, complicated lives.

As an extra boost to it’s feminist credentials, it’s been name checked in Girls and Broad City, both times in weirdly sexual situations, and you know Lorelai and Rory would be tuning in religiously.

3. Great storylines – both individual cases and season arches
We see a lot of the characters personal lives but it’s still a show about lawyers so we spend a lot of time in the court room, in briefing sessions and depositions. However, the cases are interesting in their own right and not just an excuse to get the characters in the court-room together. They cover really interesting, contemporary topics. I know more about the NSA because of The Good Wife. I have a half-formed opinion on bitcoin and how it can be used to circumnavigate the law. There was a case that focused on sexual assault in the military. They created their own search engine – ChubHum and take regular pot-shots at it, often about how it’s search results are manipulated. The most recent season featured a real life, covert detention centre that is on the edge of legality. (I didn’t know that it was real until I read this article in the Guardian – ‘We’re all news junkies’: why The Good Wife writing team is one of TV’s sharpest. (WARNING: contains spoilers))

4. Great guest-stars
Surely I’m not the only one who gets great joy from seeing a familiar face pop up in another show. It pleases me to imagine that some of the guys from The Wire moved from Baltimore to Chicago and got a new job with a different drug dealer. Ugly Betty turns up in a couple of episodes, as does Chandler Bing. Gary Cole (who for me will always be the devil from American Gothic) plays a gunshot expert and Wallace Shawn (who was in The Princess Bride and Clueless) plays a frankly terrifying lawyer. Others famous faces include Nathan Lane, Rita Wilson, Parker Posey, Christina Ricci, Sarah Silverman, Jason Biggs, Jeffrey Tambor and Gloria Steinem, playing herself.

They are my reasons why you should start watching The Good Wife immediately. If you are still not convinced here’s another article from the Guardian, spoiler-free this time: Mad Men has the buzz – but The Good Wife is the better show