Katie Roche and the new guys at the Abbey

Have you seen Katie Roche at the Abbey yet? It’s very good. I recommend it. It feels very modern. I don’t know if it’s the writing or the production; probably a bit of both. The character of Katie feels modern, she is opinionated and ambitious and fun. The play shows that modern, free woman trying to fit into the restrictive, hyper-patriarchal Ireland of the 1930s, a time that had very set ideas about how women should be. Katie Roche illustrates how harmful those ideas were, and how harmful it can be to be a round peg trying to fix into a square hole. It’s also a wonderful visual show, with a magnificent performance by Caoilfhionn Dunne.

Katie Roche was the sixth show I’ve seen in the Abbey so far this year and I’ve enjoyed them all immensely. I loved revisiting old favourites such as Dublin by Lamplight (which was so beautiful on that stage) and Ballyturk (where I enjoyed the addition of Olwen Fouéré), I loved getting a chance to see Druid’s magnificent production of Waiting for Godot after I missed it in Galway. I enjoyed Room which was a very different show for the Abbey, and I adored Jimmy’s Hall. I have more to say about Jimmy’s Hall but I will save it for another post!

I like what the new guys at the Abbey have done so far. I haven’t been organised enough to get to one of the free previews yet, but I think it’s a great idea. I also went to a couple of the Peacock work in progresses – A Whisper Anywhere Else by Jimmy Fay and Not A Funny Word by Tara Flynn. Plays that take a clear stand against the church, the police force, the state – things that feel a little subversive to be discussing in the Abbey Theatre. I love that Jimmy’s Hall opened in Leitrim and that Two Pints toured to pubs around the country. I think the new directors are doing what they set out to do by taking the Abbey out of Dublin and making it a nationwide National Theatre. There have also been day-long working sessions on gender and new writing and I’m interested to see what comes out of those.

FreePreview

So get to Katie Roche if you can. It closes on Saturday so there are only three shows left and I know it’s hard to ignore all the Fringe goodies, but try and make some time to see this show too, if you get a change.

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Tiger Dublin Fringe 2015: The most wonderful time of the year!

TigerFringe15It’s almost Fringe Time!! The box office is already open on Lower Ormond Quay, the Spiegeltent is going up in Wolfe Tone Square and the first previews start tomorrow! It’s all so exciting!

In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit of Fringe fan. I love that I can go see four or five shows in one day. (Time and money permitting, of course. Generally I’m either working so I’ve no time, or not working which means I’ve no money. But in an ideal world….) I love that I get to go to venues I’ve never visited before or places I didn’t know existing. I love the wide variety of shows on offer. There’s everything from late-night cabaret shows in the Spiegeltent to small, intimate lunch times shows in The Cube and New Theatre. There’s comedy and music and dance, as well as lots of theatre and the 21st birthday celebrations. There really are lots of lovely things to suit everyone’s taste.

If you are feeling over-whelmed by all the choice, Chis McCormack does a good round-up of festival over on Broadway World or you can go and talk to the lovely box office staff. They know their stuff and want you to see good art!

FringeBoxOffice2

Here’s some things that I am looking forward to over the next couple of weeks. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means. There’s so much on and I want to see all of it! I deliberately limited myself to six. I tried five, but I wanted one more!

Beckett in the City: The Women Speak
Company SJ have been doing wonderful productions of Beckett’s short plays over the last couple of years and this year they are focusing on the women. I struggle with the longer Beckett pieces so the short plays suit me, and it’s a chance to get into a building that I walked past on my way to work for years and years. The production is taking place in the historic Halla Banba on Parnell Square.

Middle of the Road by Bourgeois & Maurice and David Hoyle is my pick for the Spiegeltent because I have been faraway fans of Bourgeois & Maurice for many years and am really looking forward to seeing them live in Dublin instead of on YouTube!

LovelyRose

I want to see Oh! What a Lovely Rose! because of that great title and the wonderful image of Erica Murray that accompanies it. I also think the crazy tradition of the Rose of Tralee is something worth exploring.

Mother You is another show in a disused building. It’s sounds like it’s somewhere between an installation, an immersive theatre piece and a promenade performance and will incorporate lots of different art forms. I’m looking forward to it because it sounds a bit different and a bit odd. It also explores issues of community which I’m very interested in.

It Folds is a collaboration between dance company junk ensemble and theatre-makers Broken Talkers. They are both interesting and innovative companies so I’m interested in seeing what they come up with. My theme for Fringe seems to be “weird stuff”, and I’m ok with that.

Harder Faster More is about “the intertwined stories of modern women in a world where sex sells” and is written by Stewart Parker Award-nominee Tracy Martin. I heard good things about it when it was part of Theatre Machine at the beginning of the year. I’ve heard good things about Red Bear Production generally but haven’t had a chance to check them out yet so I’m looking forward to this.

Let the festival commence!

Fringe application time

TigerFringeI spent a lot of time over the last few weeks putting together my application and supporting documents for the Tiger Dublin Fringe. This is the first time I’ve submitted an application. Despite being a long-time fan of the Fringe, and working on a few festival shows, I’ve never managed to take the next step and put in an application of my own. I’ve often thought of applying. I have attended many pre-application workshops and information evenings with a small idea that I thought might grow-up to be a Fringe show. But then the meetings would make me nervous – the amount of information, all the different areas you needed to consider, all the things that could go wrong – it just made me what to hide under the bed. And I would let the fear take hold and the application deadline would pass quietly while I stayed hiding under the bed.

This year was different. I still had The Fear, I still doubted myself and my own abilities and considered throwing in the towel at least once a day, but I was able to talk myself out of it. I feel ready now. The Collaborations show was a huge confidence boost, but I’ve also spent the last three years learning about the amount of work that goes into putting a show on stage and then getting people in to see it. Despite studying drama for many years, these are all things I learnt after graduation. Since I finish my MA in Galway and moved back to Dublin, I produced a couple of shows in the 2013 Fringe, a week-long show in Smock Alley’s Main Space and a dance theatre piece in the Boy’s School. I also worked on a national tour last year with Singlehood. With all that experience under my belt, I feel much more confident in my abilities to make theatre happen.

I’ve had the opportunity to see up-close how shows of different scales, styles and budgets are put together, where the money goes and different ways to sell tickets. I’ve learnt something from every single job. Helping other people is a great way to learn and get experience. I definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to make theatre but doesn’t feel ready yet. Producers are always in demand, particularly around Fringe time. It’s a job that requires good organisation and communication skills, and a good dollop of cop-on. You will undoubtedly feel like you are making it up as you go along – don’t worry, so is everyone else! Signing up for the Fringe’s willing workers list is a good place to start, or just approach theatre companies that you would like to work for and tell them what you have to offer.

I have no idea if my application will be successful but I enjoyed putting it together and thinking about this show that I want to make, and I’m very happy that I finally took the plunge and applied for the Fringe Festival!

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!

Theatre Discussion: Is Feminism a Dirty Word in the Theatre?

If a physical acting workshop is not your thing, maybe you’d be more interested in this panel at the Gate Lab on Thursday evening – Is Feminism a Dirty Word in the Theatre? Among the panellists is Róise Goan (Director of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2008-2013 – I wrote about her last festival in A very female Fringe), writer and performer Genevieve Hulme-Beaman who I interviewed here and Anne Clark, Artistic Director of Landmark Productions, who I’m a big fan of!

It should be an interesting discussion.

A panel of Ireland’s leading Irish theatre practitioners discuss feminism in the world of theatre. Join Anne Clarke, Róise Goan, Ingrid Craigie, Marina Carr and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman in the Gate Lab as they discuss this important and topical subject.

Gate Lab events are free, but a ticket is required.
Book in advance by contacting the Gate Theatre Box Office on 01 8744045 or emailing boxoffice@gate-theatre.ie

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

A very female Fringe

Half-way through the Dublin Fringe Festival, having already seen six shows (Break, WAGE, Way Back Home, Pondling, You Remember The Stories You Wish Were True and Exit Strategy) I realised that I had yet to see a production that was written or devised by a man. This is partly my own prejudice – though I wasn’t actively avoiding shows by men, I am often more interested in seeing shows by women – but it’s also a credit to the Fringe that there were so many excellent productions by female theatre-makers to choose from. And they really were excellent shows – Way Back Home won the Spirit of the Fringe Award and I’m interested in seeing what Louise White does next. Pondling won the Best Female Performer Award for Genevieve Humle-Beaman and was also nominated for the Fishamble Award for Best New Writing.

Pondling by Genevieve Humle-Beaman
Pondling by Genevieve Humle-Beaman

At the Fringe Awards, the judges said that Best Female Performer was the most difficult categories to decide on because there was such a host of talent on display. I certainly saw some wonderful performances in lots of very different plays but I think the winner was a worthy one. In Pondling, which she wrote and performed, Genevieve Humle-Beaman created a character that was both terrifying and heart-breaking.

Female performers also did very well in Edinburgh this year – particularly when it came to the Foster’s Edinburgh comedy award; Bridget Christie won the overall prize and Adrienne Truscott won the panel prize. Both of their shows had a very strong feminist position. Christie’s show A Bic For Her was described as an hour of feminist comedy…as full of imaginative jokes as it is of righteous anger. Truscott’s show Asking for it took on rape culture and the rape joke. She performed the show naked from the waist down with video installations projected on to her lower body. These triumphs are particularly note-worthy as stand-up comedy is such a male-dominated medium.

Bryony Kimmings and her niece Taylor in Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model
Bryony Kimmings and her niece Taylor in Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model

On the theatre side of the Edinburgh Fringe, Bryony Kimmings’ Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model went down very well, winning a Fringe First Award, a Fringe Review Outstanding Theatre Award and the Arches Brick Award. It is currently running at the Soho Theatre in London. The show was devised by Kimmings and her nine-year-old niece Taylor, as a response to, and fight against, the sexualisation of young girls. Together they created Catherine Bennett, a pop-star who is also an expert on dinosaurs and loves riding her bike. She also has her own songs, complete with music videos and Facebook page. Lynn Gardner described the show as “a call to arms against those who profit from selling thongs to children.”

In the Dublin Fringe Festival, I only saw a couple of shows that were overtly feminist. One of which, WAGE by Fitzgerald and Stapleton, offered discounted tickets for female audience members in recognition of the 13.9% gender pay gap in Ireland. It was a dance piece performed by two naked female performers, who were very comfortable and non-sexual about their nakedness. Even the masturbation sequence was laugh-out-loud funny rather than sexy. I’m not entirely sure what it was about but it was fun and silly and joyful in its incomprehensiveness. I was baffled but I’d had a good time. There was a slightly jarring section at the end when the dancers, now fully clothed, were joined on stage by Justine Reilly, a former prostitute who spoke about her own experiences. There was no room left for audience interpretation here – it was very didactic and a bit preach-y. Suddenly the piece went from incomprehensible fun to unambiguous lecturing and this took away from what had gone before.

While WAGE was alternatively incomprehensible and blatantly obvious, I still felt like it was doing something different in an enjoyable way. DOLLS on the other hand, had nothing new to say. I left the Sunday night performance feeling slightly angry because my time had been wasted. It didn’t say anything new about the female condition and there were sections of the piece that I found boring. With its heavy reliance on lip-synching, DOLLS made its performers nothing more than ciphers to be imprinted on. Perhaps that was the point since the piece was about woman as objects but it failed to move beyond that and just showed me something I already knew, over and over again. I seem to be in the minority though as a lot of people seemed to really enjoy the piece. It won the inaugural First Fortnight award which means you can see it in January and make up your own mine.

I would like to see more feminist theatre, made by men and women. I’m a native optimist who believes that art can change the world (or at least change a few minds), and while women are still being treating as being worth less than men, whether it’s how much they are paid or how much they are listened to, then we need to keep shouting about it. But it helps to build a strong platform to shout from and the Dublin Fringe Festival does contribute to that. It seems like it has always been very female, certainly in the last five years under Roise Goan’s directorship, and that’s a very good thing. I would like to think that hearing women’s voices and women’s stories onstage moves us a step closer to smashing the patriarchy and making a fairer society for all.

Festival applications

Even though we’re still in the depths of winter and even summer seems a long way off, application deadlines for the Dublin Theatre Festival and the Dublin Fringe Festival are already looming.

Play On
Dublin Theatre Festival are looking for Play On participants again this year. The programme lasts from March to October and is for both new playwrights and playwrights who have had professional productions of their work staged. Successful applicants will work towards a public reading of their work as part of the Festival next October.

The deadline is this Friday, February 15 but they only accept hard-copies so get them in the post by Wednesday! More information here.

Fringe applications
The deadline for this year’s Fringe Festival is March 8 and as usual there is loads of information about everything you need to know on the Fringe website. They are also running a Pre-Application Workshop tomorrow at 6pm in Fringe HQ.

Show in a Bag
Fishamble, ITI and Fringe are running Show in a Bag again this year, unsurprisingly since it has been a great success over the last few years with shows picking up a number of Fringe awards and nominations and also having long, successful, touring lives after the Fringe. The deadline for this year’s Show in a Bag applications is March 1 and there is an information session tomorrow at 7.30pm, also in Fringe HQ. The application form and more information about how to apply is available on the Fringe website.

January Fringe Fuse

Fringe Fuse at Dublin Fringe HQ
Fringe Fuse at Dublin Fringe HQ
In the last year, Dublin Fringe Festival have moved into Sycamore House, which was the home of the Gaiety School of Acting. It’s a beautiful building with fantastic studio spaces with big windows over looking Meeting House Square. And last Monday it was full of people eager to see the new work that was being made there. It was the night of the first Fringe Fuse, a scratch night run by Fringe for theatre makers to show new work. Tickets were €3 and for that you got four short pieces of theatre and some refreshments! It’s going to be a monthly event, on the last Monday or each month and I would definitely reccomend coming along.

The first piece we saw last week was a new piece by Sonya Kelly (of Wheelchair On My Face fame) called Anywhere Else But Here about going to Austrailia to meet her in-laws. It was performed as a monologue, and was funny and endearing. It had a similar in tone to Wheelchair and Sonya performed it with her usual charm.

The second piece was a work-in-progress play called St. Patrick – The Lenged from The Gonzo Theatre Company. It was a play about the writing of the history of St. Patrick and contained some religious stories that I had never heard of, so I actually learnt something from it!

The third piece In Dog Years I’m Dead, all about turning 30 was written by Kate Heffernan and performed by Marie Ruane. It was performed as a monologue but there are plans to include a male performer as well. (As I said these are works in progress.)

The final piece was That Don’t Impress Me Much by Xnthony. It was performed with a whole lot of enthusiasim and was great fun. It was very difficult from the other pieces and it felt like the audience were just getting into it and then it was over.

The thing that struck me most was that the work was very traditional. There were three plays, with writers and actors (one performed by the writer) and a song and dance routine. This was the first Fringe Fuses so maybe people were playing it safe. I wonder if there were many applications or if people were waiting to see what happened with this first night. The four pieces were definitely in different stages of development but it’s a great opportunity to get up and test out new work in front of an audience. It’s also a brave thing to do and I appreciate the artists generousity to show us their half-finished masterpieces.

The next Fringe Fuse will be on 25 February and the deadline for applications is 15 February. If you would like to apply, email Róise and Emma at emma@fringefest.com with a short description of what you are working on and why you’d like to show it (min 250, max 600 words). More information here and on the Fringe Lab’s Facebook page. Dublin Fringe Festival are also taking applications for the 2013 Festival and all the details are on their website.

Absolut Fringe 2012: White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

I went along to this lunchtime show because I was intrigued by the premise – an actor arrives on stage, opens an envelope and reads from a script that they’ve never seen before. It’s an interesting idea and the Fringe had a list of interesting actors that were taking part. However White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is more than just an interesting acting exercise. The script uses the actor as a way for the writer to connect with the audience. The play was written by Nassim Soleimanpour, an Iranian citizen who had never left his country. He was 29 when he wrote the play and had never left Iran because in order to get a passport, citizens must do two years of military service. The play was his way to travel and experience the world outside Iran. He gives out his e-mail address a couple of times in the script with requests to send him photos and reports of the performance.

It is a play about choice and responsibility. It’s also about rabbits. It’s a play that asks a lot of the actor performing it but there’s also a lot of audience participation. As the actor and audience changes everyday, I imagine the show is very different each time it’s performed. This may have made it a difficult for the Fringe Awards judges – it was nominated for Best Production.

I was there on the opening afternoon and our actor for the day was Stephen Rea. He performed with a slight knowing smile at the audience which said ‘these are not my words’, especially when the words in question were expressions like “super cool” or “groovy”. He took the comedy and the seriousness of the script in his stride. The audience seems a little bit more nervous than he did. I often think that Irish audiences aren’t very good at participating in a piece of theatre, and I include myself in that. We don’t have any sort of tradition of it in this country. We are not generally disruptive people. In these sort of situations, I find myself wanting to be a “good audience member” but not always sure what was required of me.

I really enjoyed the play. It threw up a lot of questions about the world and was about more than just the art that was taking place in that room. I would have liked to see it again, for lots of reasons. I wish I’d spoken up more in the performance.

You can read about Peter Daly’s description of the performance from the actor’s point of view in the Irish Times Festival Hub.