What to book now for Dublin Theatre Festival 2016

Tickets for this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival go on sale for the general public this morning at 10am and I am making plans – what to see, when to see it, what to book now and what to book later. My early booking is financially strategic; if I don’t book my Festival shows now, I’ll spend all my money at the Fringe and by October I’ll be too broke to see anything.

I really like the Dublin Theatre Festival and I want to see as much as I can. It’s a great opportunity to experience theatre from other parts of the world, as well as seeing big shows from Irish companies. It’s also a chance to see a crazy amount of theatre in a short space of time. Following so quickly after Fringe, this can be a bit head-melting. But in a good way.

Here are some of my early booking picks:

These rooms by Anu & Cois Ceim
This one I’ll definitely be grabbing a ticket for. It’s on in a couple of houses in Dorset Street and capacity is limited. Some shows has already sold out, and I’d be surprised if the entire run isn’t fully booked before the Theatre Festival opens on September 29th. It’s a collaboration between Anu Productions and Cois Ceim and focuses on the experiences of the civilians who were caught up in the 1916 Rising.

Guerrilla by El Conde de Torrefiel
I have my eye on this one because I spend a lot of time in Spain but I haven’t actually seen any Spanish theatre, and this sounds a bit odd and interesting. A lot of the international shows have very short runs at the festival – this one is only on for three performances.

The Seagull by Corn Exchange
This is on in the Gaiety so tickets are unlikely to be gone too soon. I really like The Seagull. I’ve seen it a few times in various productions and I read a couple of different translations for an essay in college. It’s very funny and also has lots of fierce, ballsy female characters in it. Though things don’t generally end well for them and their existence tends to revolve around the men, they are still great characters in their own right. I’m also a big fan of Corn Exchange who make visually exciting theatre. I’m also a big fan of the two (female) cast members announced already – Derbhle Crotty and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman – so I think it will be a hot ticket this year. Tickets for the Gaiety are not cheap, but this play by this company – I think it will be worth it.

Alien Documentary by Una McKevitt
I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about this show for the last couple of years so I’ve very excited to see the finished product. It’s on in The Cube in Project for nearly two weeks. Long run but a small venue and I think it will be popular.

Crisis Meeting by Kriðpleir and LÓKAL Performing Arts
This is a show from an Icelandic theatre company about writing an application for arts funding. I’m curious to see if you can make an engaging show about arts admin and if the company do manage to oscillate “anarchy, sitcom and Beckettian gravity” as their blurb claims. If you don’t fancy the risk on that one, there are a couple of other Northern European shows in the programme – you might prefer the “epic and vaudevillesque” style of Wishful Beginnings by VERK Produksjoner from Norway or the “switch between dance and  scattered questioning” is This is Not a Love Story by Swede Gunilla Heilborn.

It’s definitely worth booking something a little bit outside your comfort zone. It’s what festival’s are for!

summerdream

I have mixed feelings about booking a ticket for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Bord Gais. Again, it’s a play that I like and it looks like a fun, playful production but I’m not a fan of seeing theatre in the grand scale of the Bord Gais. I’ve been spoilt by all our wonderful intimate theatre spaces in Dublin.

I’m also on the fence about It’s Not Over, THEATREclub’s vision of The Plough and The Stars by Sean O’Casey. Do I want to see another production of the The Plough? Can I sit through a four and a half hour production of The Plough? I’m not sure.

I’m willing to be persuaded about both of these, and probably most of the other festival offerings. Is there anything else I should have on my early bird booking list? What’s on your list?

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Words and language at the Dublin Theatre Festival 2015

dublin-theatre-fest15-posterDublin Theatre Festival is over for another year, though they have already made the first announcement for next year’s festival – a production of Don Giovanni, translated by Roddy Doyle and directed by Pan Pan’s Gavin Quinn. I’m a little bit disappointed that Roddy Doyle, who writes such great dialogue (I love his Two Pints series on Facebook), is writing an opera. In my limited experience of opera, the words tend to get lost in the beautiful melodies and soaring arias. I didn’t get much out of the opera in this year’s festival – Enda Walsh’s The Last Hotel. Maybe I just don’t get on with opera.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the festival. The two Chekhov plays – tg Stan’s The Cherry Orchard and Dead Centre’s Chekhov’s First Play – were both highlights for me and it was lovely to see Dancing at Lughnasa in the Gaiety. I’m also looking forward to seeing The Train this week, stretching out my festival experience a little longer.

I also enjoyed the post-show talks and the other discussions that happened as part of the festival. Last Thursday I went to Found in Translation, a fascinating discussion about the challenges of translation. The panellists was made up of two translators – Joanna Crawley and Christine Madden, and Eugene O’Neill, who’s play Eden has been translated into many different languages, including Dutch, Romanian and Catalan. They talked about how translating doesn’t mean just translating the words, you also have to translate into the culture of the new country. There’s also the added layer of different theatre conventions in different countries. Eugene O’Neill said some European countries had great difficulty with the idea that the cast stayed still and delivered their lines, a typical thing in Irish theatre, but a radical idea when their idea of theatre is full of movement and visual metaphors.

These are my three favourite things I took away from the talk:

  1. That the word “baluba”, meaning mad or drunk, was (is?) the name of a tribe in the Congo and came into Irish lexicon after a UN Peace Keeping mission in the 1960s. It was a new one on me, though Urban Dictionary knew about it. The full details of the conflict are here.
    It came up last Thursday because one of the characters in Eden talks about how he “got balubas last night” and O’Neill had to describe what this word meant to his Romanian translator.
  2. There is no German word for silly. This was from Christine Madden (who translates from German) and it came up when she was describing a talk she went to, given by a man who had translated PJ Woodhouse into German. He said that his way into the work was realising that what Woodhouse did was treat light subjects very seriously, and serious subjects very lightly. She felt it was the perfect definition of silly.
  3. And this article from Joanna Crawley about the first production of her translation of Amy Conroy’s I Alice I and how this very Irish play resonated with Polish audiences – Somewhere under the Rainbow

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!

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.

Mark Ravenhill in conversation

I was lucky enough to be in the audience at the Royal Irish Academy when Mark Ravenhill came to speak in Dublin last month. The event was organised by Dublin Theatre Festival and Theatre Forum and the interview is now available on YouTube. Ravenhill was very open about his own career and the challenges facing artists today. He also gave some great tips on playwriting.

He recently wrote a libretto for the Norwegian National Opera (and admits that he had to ask the stupid question and make sure he wasn’t expected to write it in Norwegian) and says that in opera, the writing has to be pared back – “every single vowel sound has to earn its right to be there”. Looking back on his own plays afterwards, he felt they were over-written because he’d got into the habit of interrogating every word in the text.

He also talks about working with the RSC on a version of Brecht’s A Life of Galileo. The very start of the play deals with the tension between the art of science and doing work to pay the rent. This is a topic that has interested and agitated Ravenhill in the past, as seen in his speech at the opening of last year’s Edinburgh Festival. He talks about how the arts are valued economically, and the different ways that artists have to justify themselves to governments and other funding bodies. He recognises that the cost of being a human being has gone up year after year, making it more difficult to take time to make work that you might not get paid for.

Talking about his own career, he says that he is best known as a playwright because it is what people pay him to do. At the beginning of his career he wrote things because he wanted something to perform or direct himself. He says he would like to do more directing, but does feel that he’s very good at it, mostly because he hasn’t done it enough. Directing is something that you have to be allowed to do, you need resources to get good at it. Writing, on the other hand, you can do on your own at the kitchen table.

His advice to playwrights included the idea of writing the first draft very quickly, as if you were improvising on the page. He also said to write about things that you don’t have the answer to. He says that Brecht gives his characters great ethical choices. He criticises post-modernism because it does away with ethics, and a sense of good or bad, right or wrong. We have an ethical responsibility to attempt to make connections. It’s too bleak to say nothing is connected and everything is random.

Dr. Emilie Pine is a great interviewer and there’s some good questions from the audience at the end. Definitely worth a watch if you have an hour to fill over the long weekend!

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.

Dublin Theatre Festival 2012: The Boys of Foley Street

I find Anu Productions a little bit frightening. I admire their work hugely, I think they are one of the most exciting Irish companies making work right now but I would still be wary about recommending an Anu show to someone. I would be wary about going to see it myself! I was glad I went to see Laundry in last years Dublin Theatre Festival because it felt important to recognise what went on in the Magdalene laundries and to act as a witness to what those women went though. It was also a beautifully realised piece of theatre that was heart-breaking and incredibly moving.

Despite that, I was still in two-minds about whether to see The Boys of Foley Street. I wasn’t sure if I was up to it. I knew it was out on the streets and I knew World’s End Lane, situated in the same area, had been a fairly harrowing experience. My first few shifts as a festival volunteer were at the Lab, doing Front of House for the show. Seeing the audience members coming back looking a bit subdued and slightly shell-shocked didn’t really reassure me.

Then I got a ticket out of the blue and it’s hard to say no to a free ticket so off I went. It knew a little bit about what was coming from hanging being in the Lab but it was still quite an experience. The performers take you away to a different time and place and you’re pulled out and moved through those places quickly, urgently. The women in Laundry shyly beckoned you into a room, here you’re told to “Move! Move! Faster!” and you do it because you don’t know what else to do. You want to be a good audience member so you do what you’re told; stand where you’re told to stand, look where you’re told to look. And all this doing and looking makes you complicit with the terrible things that happen on on the streets and in the back alleys and the flats.

Everyone is looking after themselves as best they can and because that’s not easy, they don’t have time to look after anyone else. As an audience member, it’s all too easy to slip into this frame of mind.

The cast is so good and there performances so accomplished and so natural that it all feels frighteningly real. Laundry felt like it was performed by ghosts but here the performances are more corporeal and much more in your face. You go into a grim little flat at the back of Foley Street and it feels like going back in time. You only spend 10 or 15 minutes there (maybe more, maybe less – time is hard to judge as you’re are ordered in and out of cars and rooms and lives) but it’s a heart-breaking glimpse into these people’s lives. You can see their past and their future expanding on either side and it’s depressing and so hard to see. Leaving is difficult because you feel like you are betraying them but at the same time, you are so glad that you have the option.

The characters and stories explored in Boys of Foley Street feel very current. After the show, it can be difficult to tell the different between the actors and the inhabitants of the area. It stays with you when you leave.

The work is important and political and terrifying at times. The actors, who performed 20 times a day for the entire length of the festival, astound me. Their performances are so strong and so believable that it feels like a privilege to witness it. Next year I will be first in the queue to get a ticket for the final part of Anu’s Monto quadrilogy. I’m looking forward to it already.

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.

Looking forward to 2012

Here are a handful of theatre related things that I am looking forward to this year.

  1. Blue Raincoat’s production of Rhinoceros at the Town Hall Theatre, February 27 – 29
    My MA class did a two-day workshop in corporeal mime with Blue Raincoat last November. I hadn’t heard of the company before that and I had no idea what corporeal mime was. It was an interesting couple of days and based on my basic knowledge Blue Raincoat’s style, I’m very interested to see what they’re like on stage.
  2. Fishamble’s Tiny Play’s for Ireland at Project, March 15 – 31
    Last year Fishamble held a competition looking for three minute plays that said something about Ireland today. They got over 1,700 entries (including one from me)! The winners haven’t been announced yet but the plays that are selected will be performed alongside tiny plays from established writers. I think it will be an interesting evening of snapshots and the audience will walk out of the theatre with their heads full of stories!
  3. Alice in Funderland at the Abbey, 30 March – 12 May
    At this stage, it probably goes without saying that I’m looking forward to this production but I thought I’d say it anyway! The show stays true to the absurd surrealism of Lewis Carroll’s original and I’m delighted that it will on at the Abbey who have the ability to bring the crazy, inventive ideas in the script to full fruition. You don’t need a huge budget to make great theatre, but sometimes it’s nice to have it! This is going to be a great show.
  4. Willie White’s first Dublin Theatre Festival, September 27 – October 14
    Willie White was the Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre for nine years before he became the new Festival Director earlier this year. As you can probably tell from this blog, that Project is very favourite theatre in Dublin. There’s always at least one thing in their programme that I’m dying to see. It’s also more than just a venue as they offered great support to new artists over the last few years with the Project Catalysts and Project Brand New.
  5. The House directed by Annabelle Comyn at the Abbey, 7 June – 14 July
    Annabelle Comyn directed last year’s production of Pygmalion at the Abbey that I loved and I’ve recently discovered Tom Murphy’s plays so I’m interested in seeing this show. Murphy was the first playwright on our list of Irish Playwrights since the 60s and that was my first proper introduction to his work. Before that I’d seen The Last Days of the Reluctant Tyrant but I didn’t really like it. I read The Famine for class (which will be performed as part of Druid’s Murphy cycle later this year) and found it a dark and brutal play. A lot of his work seems to be a bit grim. I also saw the DramSoc’s production of The Morning After Optimism last year, which was a very strange but enjoyable play. Slowly but surely, Tom Murphy is winning me round and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work.

Festival improvements

Last week on the Irish Times theatre blog Pursued by a Bear, there was an article suggesting ways to improve the recent theatre festivals in Dublin.

Some of it is very true – shows should not run miles over their advertised time (festival time is too busy for that sort of messing) and maybe people should be encouraged more to try for returns to sell-out shows – but there are a few things I disagree with as well.

Change the dates – I couldn’t disagree more. I love that the two festivals are so close together and that you can completely over-dose on theatre throughout September and October. It makes the city feel really alive and buzzing for weeks on end. One of the arguments in favour of changing the dates given in the article is that “The chances of getting the casual theatre-goer into a show for four consecutive weeks are pretty slim.” I don’t think this is a problem because I think the Absolut Fringe and the Dublin Theatre Festival are targeting different audiences. Of course there is an overlap but I think the people who are interested in both festivals are people who go to the theatre regularly anyway, they are more than causal theatre-goers.

Ticket prices – Both festivals had reasonably priced tickets on offer this year. There were loads of €10 tickets for Fringe shows, particularly for previews, and I thought the Final Call offers from the Dublin Theatre Festival (where tickets for certain shows were available on the day from the festival box-office for €10) was fantastic. The Theatre Festival also had a wide-range of prices this year. At one end, you could see shows for €15 while seats in the Gaiety were €33. This meant people were less likely to be completely priced out of the festival.

Star attractions – I don’t think the Dublin Theatre Festival needs to hire celebrities to improve it’s appeal. Alan Rickman in John Gabriel Borkman last year was a bit of a disappointment and I think it cheapens the festival to rely on star power.

I really enjoy both the Fringe and the Theatre Festival and had trouble coming up with improvements that could be made. However here are a couple of suggestions:

Ticket lucky dip
This could be done for the Theatre Festival or the Fringe but would probably work better for the Fringe because of their cheaper ticket prices and huge range of shows. You would buy tickets for three of four different shows but you don’t know what shows until you get your tickets! Sometimes people don’t know what to see in the festival because of the huge amount of choice. This would solve that; you take a risk and go where you’re told. It might have to be very reasonably priced to encourage people to take that risk.

The Fringe Awards
You used to be able to buy tickets to the Fringe Awards. They were held in the Speilgeltent and featured short performances and winners and losers. I love awards show and I miss being able to go to this one.

If you have any suggestions, you can leave them here or over on the Irish Times blog. You can also give your feedback directly to the Dublin Theatre Festival by filling in their survey.