Pondling: Interview with Genevieve Hulme-Beaman

Pondling by Genevieve Humle-Beaman
Pondling by Genevieve Humle-Beaman
Pondling returns to Smock Alley Boys’ School next month, the same venue it sold out at last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival. Written and performed by Genevieve Hulme- Beaman, this intense one-hour play is dark and funny. Genevieve won Best Female Performer at the Fringe Awards for her portrayal of the creepy young girl and the play has also been nominated for the Steward Parker Award.

Pondling was first performed as part of the 2013 Collaborations Festival and I asked Genevieve where she got the idea for the show. She said that the first thing that came to her was the image of a little girl in a dramatic pose. This, along with the idea of a child speaking tragic, over-dramatic, French, was her starting point for Pondling.

Genevieve has been working with her Pondling director Paul Meade for many years. He was her assigned mentor when she was a student at the Gaiety School of Acting. After she graduated in 2010, Genevieve played the part of Amber on the international tour of Elaine Murphy’s Little Gem, directed by Meade. The characters in Little Gem are three generations of the same family who tell their story in monologue. Genevieve says that this role really taught her how to perform monologues.

After Pondling‘s success at the Fringe, Genevieve went on to perform at the Gate Theatre, in a version of Pride & Prejudice adapted by James Maxwell and Alan Stanford. She played the youngest Bennett sister Lydia, who she describes as “such a little boldy”. She says it was an amazing part in a big cast, and that it was refreshing to be part of an ensemble for a change. Genevieve says that the nice thing about acting is that it’s always changing.

Genevieve will be spending a week in Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig as part of the Stewart Parker nomination and has some ideas of what she’d like to work on while she’s there. Beyond that, she would love for Pondling to have a long life and to perform it around the world. She’d like to see how audiences in other countries react to her psychotic 10-year-old creation.

In the meantime, Dublin audiences will have the pleasure of Madeline Humbel Buttercup’s company in Smock Alley, 31st March – 5th April and in Axis: Ballymun on 17th – 19th April.

Related Post: A very female Fringe

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Interview with Hilary O’Shaughnessy

HilaryOShaughnessyLast week I spoke to Hilary O’Shaughnessy, the artist behind Make and Do, who are bringing The Journey to the End of the Night to Dublin. Hilary herself has played the street game in San Francisco, where it began and is played every year. She has also played other city-wide street games such as 2.8 Hours Later, a zombie street game, which she played in Bristol. Hilary says that street games are a great way to experience a city and get to know the people who live there. Games are all about connecting with other people. You are surrounded by people with the same goal as you and very quickly find yourself talking to strangers and getting to know people.

With Journey, these connections between strangers start before the game begins. The creators of the game (Ian Kizu-Blair, Sean Mahan and Sam Lavigne) have released it under a Creative Commons/Non-Commercial license so anyone can organise a game, but not for profit. This means the game is run entirely by volunteers – dedicated enthusiasts who get involved because they think it’ll be fun. Hilary is currently assembling the Dublin team.

She is also one of these enthusiasts but says that people sometimes have difficulty understanding what street games are. She compares it to trying to explain a bicycle to someone who has never seen a bicycle before. One of the reasons she is bringing Journey to Dublin is to introduce the city to street games. Her hope is that once people get what it is, they will begin to create and run their own street games. She feels that there is scope for a lot of people with different backgrounds to enjoy and create street games.

Hilary’s own background is in theatre. She was Joint Artistic Director of Playgroup, the theatre company that produced the award-winning Berlin Love Tour, and is currently Artist in Residence (with Make and Do) at Project Arts Centre. She recently spoke at the IndieCade Conference in New York about Outsider Games – games by people who have no formal training in designing games, the valuable things this lack of training can add to the creation of games and how it can increase the pool of potential players. Hilary also has an MA in Interactive Media from UL, which she did in part to learn about ways to add technology to games. She is interested in tech as a way to extend the experience of the game and add an extra layer, but says that’s important not to forget the people are.

Journey, which will be part of the Darklight Festival, will have a digital storytelling strand to the game, where people can share photos, tweets and vines. (I won’t be in Dublin for the game and I’m glad I’ll be able to watch it unfold online on the night.)

Hilary’s next goal is to bring a play festival to Dublin, to further stimulate the game making and playing community in the city. She says that it won’t be aimed at children because they don’t need help or encouragement to play – they do it everyday. It’s for the adults who have forgotten this vital skill. There are festivals already running in many European cities such as Ig Fest in Bristol and w00t in Copenhagen. Later this year, Hilary will be presenting her own game CHARGE! at A maze in Berlin. Hopefully Dublin will embrace street games with the same enthusiasm as these cities and we will see lots more games happening here.

Related post: The Journey to the End of the Night

HISTORY: Interview with Louise White

HISTORY

HISTORY, the final part of THEATREclub’s trilogy of work about the social history of Ireland, opens in Project Arts Centre tonight. This final piece is about St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, while also examining the history of Ireland over the last 100 years. St. Michael’s Estate is a place with a particularly troubled past. It housed imprisoned 1916 revolutionaries after the Easter Rising and was the site of Ireland’s first social housing in the 1960s. More recently, regeneration has been promised four times in the last 15 years but the former residents of the estate are still waiting. Louise White, HISTORY’s Associate Director says the show is about “acknowledging the things that happened there, some of which are very dark and that poorly reflect The State; but it’s also about showing that there were good people there too and that people are strong, resilient and hopeful and they persevere.”

This ultimately hopeful project that been a long time in the making. It was commissioned by Dublin City Public Art Programme three years ago. Louise White is a recent addition to the HISTORY team. She joined the project in October. Louise is a performer, director and theatre maker. This year she won the Spirit of the Fringe award with Way Back Home, a piece that combined live storytelling, games and dance with beautiful, evocative paintings by visual artist Clare Henderson. She is currently developing a piece of work called Mother You, a big site-specific work for a disused commercial building in Dublin’s city centre. Louise says it is “about the cycle of life and the cyclical nature of the function of buildings. It’s about me wanting to nurture and do something spectacular and positive in a totemic representation of the failures of recent years.”

While her work is very different stylistically to THEATREclub’s, the ideas at the heart of their work are similar. Louise discovered this earlier this year, when she took part in MAKE, a theatre residency programme that is jointly run by Cork Midsummer Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival, Project Arts Centre and Theatre Forum. THEATREclub’s Grace Dyas also participated in the programme and the two got on very well together. Louise says “We had lots of conversations about life and art during that time and were mutually supportive of each other’s process.” Talking about how she became attached to the project, Louise says that “I thought the project was exceptional and important from the way she spoke about it and I felt privileged to be approached.”

Louise describes THEATREclub as “ever growing and incredibly ambitious”. HISTORY is a huge project, both artistically and logistically. Not only does it deal with big stories and themes, there is also a large number of funding bodies involved. The development process includes weekly public art meetings to keep everybody informed. This is a large scale, ambitious project that has been three years in the making. Louise says that THEATREclub have “a great integrity in their work” and their ambition is hopeful and aspirational. According to Louise, they are “Aspirational for those they work with; for the people of St. Michael’s Estate, for themselves and for Ireland. It’s a mad and brilliant energy to be around.”

The cast of HISTORY have all worked with THEATREclub before. Lauren Larkin plays Mother Ireland, Louise Lewis plays the statue of the Virgin Mary and they are joined by Shane Byrne, Gerard Kelly and Barry O’Connor. The tag-line for this show – Will you walk with us? – suggests that the audience are required to do a little bit more that sit quietly in the dark. There’s a full scale trad session each night, as well as a public conversation. THEATREclub want the audience to be involved in this history of Ireland so that they can take responsibility for what happens next.

HISTORY runs from December 18 – 22 at 7.30pm, in the Space Upstairs in Project Arts Centre. Tickets are available here and are only €10 for tonight’s show (December 18). Tickets for the rest of the week are €16/12.

Assassins: Interview with Anthony Kinahan

Assassins
Assassins

Assassins by Stephen Sondheim is about the men and women who killed or attempted to kill American presidents, and according to cast member Anthony Kinahan it is a very funny, exciting, fun show; a sort of musical review for these killers. Anthony plays Giuseppe Zangara who attempted to shot Franklin D. Roosevelt but missed and instead killed the major of Chicago. This is a show that also works as a history lesson!

Anthony describes it as a play that gives voice to the disenfranchised; those who have been shoved outside of society. The play does not apologise for these people but attempts to give an insight into why they did what they did. He says that they have been dis-empowered in so many ways that they can only find power through violence and while the story is told through an American frame, he feels that it still has a lot to say to Irish audiences. Anthony, who has an MA in Music Theatre from Central School of Speech and Drama in London says that the use of music in the show complements what’s happening on stage but it’s also insidious. As the audience find themselves humming the tunes on the way out of the theatre, their thoughts are more likely to return to the show and its themes again and again. The overtly performative nature of the show – the characters address the audience directly – also makes it hard for the audience to ignore these characters.

We also talked about the Sky Arts Ignition award that Rough Magic and Opera Theatre Company were joint recipients of, for a production of Rise and Fall of the City Mahagonny by Bertolt Brecht, set to music by Kurt Weill, and another play with direct social commentary that uses music to get its message across. And while it’s great to see the two companies getting the opportunity to make work of this scale, Anthony says it’s also nice to see Rough Magic rewarded, as they are a company who do a lot of training. He also has lots of good things to say about SEEDS director Ronan Phelan. Anthony said Ronan was very clear about his vision and what he wanted to do, while still being open to input from the cast. The cast of fourteen includes Ray Scannell, winner of Best Male Performer at this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, WillFredd regulars Paul Curley and Shane O’Reilly and the wonderful Clare Barrett. Anthony says he feels lucky to be part of this performance and is delighted to get up and go off to work on this play, with these people every morning.

Now the work in the rehearsal room is finished and it’s time to let the audience in on the fun. Previews started last night and it runs at 9.15pm until December 14th. Tickets are €12 this week and €14/16 next week, available here.

Way to Heaven: An interview with Breffni Holahan

Way to Heaven. Image by Lucy Nuzum
Way to Heaven. Image by Lucy Nuzum

Way to Heaven, the Rough Magic SEEDS showcase production, directed by Rosemary McKenna and set in a concentration camp during WW II sounds like a fairly bleak prospect for the weeks running up to Christmas. However, when I voice these concerns to Breffni Holahan, she reassures me that it is not a depressing piece of theatre. She says there is a lightness to the piece as the members of the fake concentration camp attempt to imitate life and convince the Red Cross that there’s nothing untoward happening, everything is fine here, nothing to worry about. Breffni also attributes some of this lightness to Karl Quinn who plays the Nazi guard. She worked with him during this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival on Collapsing Horse’s Distance to the Event and was happy to see a familiar face when she started rehearsals for this show.

Breffni plays a woman in the concentration camp, only known as She or The Plain One. Her other Jewish prisoners are played by Kieran Roche and Ruairi Heading. They are joined onstage by three violinists and a number of children. On working with children, Breffni said she was told “if a child comes up to you and says I need to go for a wee, find a meaningful way to leave the space”. She says it hasn’t happened yet but if it does, she’ll be ready. Other cast members include Will O’Connell as the Mayor of the Jewish camp and Daniel Reardon as the Red Cross Representative. The play, which is based on a real events that happened in 1944, is written by Juan Mayorga and translated by David Johnson.

Breffni worked with Rough Magic earlier this year, on The Critic which was part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. She was one of the students from the Gaiety School of Acting and DU Players who performed a version of Puff’s The Spanish Armada for the writer (played by another Karl, Karl Shiels) in The Ark. Breffni is currently in her third year at Trinity, studying Drama and English. She says that when she started college, English was her main subject and then she got distracted by Players. She is very enthusiastic about Players as an environment to learn and experiment and says she has learnt to “rig a light, sew a hem, sell tickets, make a poster” and just do whatever’s necessary to get the show up and running. She says that Rough Magic’s Artistic Director Lynn Parker describes Players as being her university and she feels that is an accurate description.

Breffni has had a busy year and right now she’s not thinking too far beyond Christmas essays and enjoying a bit of sleep over the holidays. However, sometime in the future she would like to perform all of Sarah Kane’s plays. She has already started working her way through them with Players and has played Phaedra in Phaedra’s Love and C in Crave. She would also like to perform the Beckett piece Not I. Right now though, she is just enjoying learning as much as she can and working with great people.

Way to Heaven opens tonight in Project Arts Centre at 7pm and runs until December 14th. Tickets are €12 this week and €14/16 next week, available here. It is followed each night by the other Rough Magic SEEDS showcase productions Assassins and I will have an interview with cast member Anthony Kinahan tomorrow.

The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle: An Interview with Rachel Gleeson

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The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle

After two very successful runs at the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, and a nomination for Best Play in the Irish Theatre Awards at the weekend, The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle begins a two week run in Smock Alley this week.

I recently spoke to Rachel Gleeson, one of the eight ensemble cast members, about the play. Rachel describes the play as “a moving piece of theatre that is sentimental without being overly sweet.” It examines regrets and what you can get out of life, as a group of twenty-somethings assess a man’s life.

Rachel, who is rehearsing the play for the third time, says that there are still new things to discover in the text and there are still revelations everyday in rehearsals. This is a credit to what Rachel describes as a “dense script” by Ross Dungan, which has lots to offer both the actors and the audience. There have been cast changes each time the play has been produced, and bringing in new cast members has brought a different energy to the show each time. Everyone has their own reactions to the script and each time they start to rehearse the play, director Dan Herd encourages the cast to approach it as if it is a new show. He is working with the actors that he has in the room to produce something fresh each time.

Rachel studied drama at Trinity College, and feels that this was an excellent education for her because it exposed her to loads of different aspects of theatre. Her involvement with Players directly led to this show. The production company 15th Oak are a group of people who have known each other for a long time and have worked together before. The result of this is a strong and supportive group.

Rachel describes The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle as an epic show that really touches people. The reactions from the audience in Edinburgh were particularly emotional. However there are also funny moments in the script, which is very active and demands a lot from its ensemble cast. Talking to Rachel it is obvious that she really enjoys working on this play and is looking forward to performing it in Dublin and taking it to the Soho Theatre in London next April. It sounds like a very enjoyable night of theatre from an audience’s point of view as well. It will be on in Smock Alley, 14 – 26 January at 7.30pm. Tickets are available here.

There’s also a post show discussion on Tuesday 22 January called Bringing a show to Edinburgh and beyond. It will be moderated by Peter Crawley, with Róise Goan (Fringe Festival), Ross Dungan (15th Oak) , Jim Culleton (Fishamble: The New Play Company) and Theatre Lovett talking about the opportunities and the pitfalls of making work to go on the road.