DTF 2014 and other festivals

DTF2014

I really enjoyed this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. I saw great Irish and international shows over the two and a bit weeks. Here is a handful of my favourite things.

1. A German Hamlet that reminded me of Rik Mayall. Schaubühne’s Hamlet was modern and contemporary and very, very German. It looked amazing with a wet, mucky set and a giant curtain of chains that doubled up as a projection screen. This Hamlet was allowed be funny and silly, particularly when he addressed the audience directly but within the play’s text as well. The show created a very clear world for these characters and the costumes worked supplement that and to help the six actors portray the twenty plus characters in the play! The last Hamlet I saw was also in the Dublin Theatre Festival – the Wooster Group’s Hamlet in 2012. (I also saw Playing the Dane in the festival in 2010. It’s a popular play!) Now I’m ready to take a break from this tragic hero for a while!

2. So many female stories. The festival were awash with magnificent female performers. From the incredible talents of Marie Mullen, Catherine Walsh and Aisling O’Sullivan in Druid’s production of Bailegangaire at the Gaiety, to Aoife Dunffin’s spell-binding performance in A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, to the wonderful cast of Vardo to the grumpiest Masha I’ve ever seen in Pan Pan’s The Seagull and Other Birds. Lots of different women, telling lots of different stories.

3. The internationality of it. In the O’Reilly Theatre I saw an Australian show about an Indian elephant god who travels to Germany to rescue the Swastika from the Nazi’s. Ganesh Versus The Third Reich was a wonderful show crammed full of ethical and dramatic questions, as well as fantastic performances. I feel lucky to have seen a show that was made on the other side of the world. Another show in the Australian Season, Jack Charles V The Crown also looked at persecution but was much more about Australian life.

4. Two wonderful days with ANU talking and thinking about the Monto Cycle. As well as being lucky enough to get a ticket for Vardo, I also attended the two-day conference NOW-THEN-NOW, presented by ANU Productions and Create. It was a fascinating two days hearing about the five-year project, and it managed a good balance between academic views on the work and the cast and audience’s experiences from inside the work. We also had the chance to experience a condensed version of all four pieces (World’s Ends Lane, Laundry, Boys of Foley Street and Vardo) on the streets around the Lab. It was a very enjoyable couple of days.

5. Talking theatre with people, at the conference, before shows and in the bar afterwards. I volunteered with the festival again this year. I think it’s my third or fourth year doing it and I keep coming back because I really enjoy it. It’s a great way to see lots of shows in the festival and you also meet people who are really enthusiastic about theatre and I love talking theatre with people.

That’s a condensed version of my festival. If I included everything I saw and loved, this post would be very long and I want to write a little bit of two festivals starting today. Just in case you were feeling festival withdrawal!

Prototype is a festival of play and interaction and it’s happening in Project Arts Centre today and tomorrow. It’s run by the same people who brought you Journey to the End of the Night and it features talks and workshops as well as lots of games. Tickets for the Playground and access to all the games are €10 for one night and €15 for both nights, and there are different games available on each night. You can book tickets and get more information on Project’s website.

Also starting today is the spoken word festival Lingo. It’s happening Friday to Sunday in Smock Alley Theatre,The Workman’s Club and The Liquor Rooms.

And for something completely different – the Dublin Cocktail Festival is also on at the moment and finished tomorrow.

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DruidMurphy, Town Hall Theatre, Galway – 3 June 2012

I knew very little about Tom Murphy before I started my MA in Drama and Theatre Studies last September. It seems embarrassing to say it now but I’m not sure I’d even heard of him. I must have come across him at some stage but I could just be saying that because his work seems so familiar to me now.

Tom Murphy was the first playwright we studied in Irish Playwrights since the 60s. Famine was the play I read and reported back on but we also talked about his other plays, particularly the ones that were produced by Druid. Then at the end of November, Druid announced their DruidMurphy cycle and suddenly Tom Murphy was everywhere!

In the second term we did a series of Masterclasses with Druid artists, some of whom were working on DruidMurphy. We did a directing masterclass with Garry Hynes using Tom Murphy’s first play On The Outside. We also had a class with the set and costume designer Francis O’Connor where he talked about choosing the set for DruidMurphy. He also talked about The Gigli Concert and had photos from that set and many others. It was an interesting and informative class and it was great that we had it in Druid Theatre where so many of the plays were staged.

At the end of March, two of my classmates started their internships with Druid, working on the DruidMurphy cycle. We barely saw them over the next few months – they were kept very busy, but they were there on the Sunday morning in June when I headed down to the Town Hall Theatre to see the first full-day DruidMurphy cycle. It felt a little bit strange to be arriving at the theatre when it was still light outside. Inside the foyer was filled with people looking forward to the day of plays, looking over the schedule, wondering how we’d cope with the long day, how we would feel 10 hours later.

Luckily the Town Hall Theatre seats are comfortable and relatively roomy. When we were booking my friend and I spent some time choosing our seats from the limited selection available. For a full day of plays, it was important that we got the seat selection right! We got a couple of seats at the back – it’s a small enough theatre that even at the back, you still have a good view.

The connecting theme between the three plays is emigration. The first, Conversations on a Homecoming is about the returning emigrant. Whistle in the Dark is more about the emigrant’s experience aboard though it is also about violence, family ties and masculinity. Famine is about how the waves of emigration out of Ireland began. Emigration is a relevant issue in Ireland today but it’s hard not to feel like we’re looking at these plays from a great distance. because it does say something about Ireland today. It was a bit backward looking though. It would have been nice to see a modern play there beside the older, reflective plays. Something that took into account the changes that the country has undergone over the last 20 years. But that wasn’t the aim of the cycle. It captured the results and causes of emigration for those who have gone before, it reminded us of our history.

Conversations on a Homecoming was my favourite of the three plays. This one at least had a few laughs in it. It was still not a particularly happy play but there were some moments when happiness seemed possible. The performances were also wonderful. Aaron Monaghan was excellent as estate agent Liam, while Marie Mullan was almost unrecognisable as the pub landlady. It can be a bit disorientating to return to the theatre after a short break and find a new set on stage and the same actors playing brand new characters. It’s hard not to connect what has gone before and the relationships between characters that were built up over the last hour and put all that on top of what you are seeing on stage. It is a very impressive feat for the actors and I have a huge admiration for them straddling these three plays. I think it’s a huge achievement for Druid and all the cast and crew involved. It’s an ambitious project and a feat they can be very proud of.

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to see all three plays in one day. Each play stands up so well on it’s own that I’m not sure how seeing in the cycle really adds to the experience. (Apart from awe and admiration at the acting abilities of the performers.) If you would like to see the full DruidMurphy cycle, it’s at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October.