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.

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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.

Monster/Clock at Smock Alley

Irish Theatre is having a bit of a musical moment right now. Alice in Funderland opened at the Abbey last night, the gang from Avenue Q have taken over the Grand Canal Theatre and in Monster/Clock is playing in Smock Alley.

Monster/Clock is about a monster called Toby and the story is told through music puppetry. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet but from the trailer it looks like a beautiful show.

Meadhbh McHugh is a mezzo-soprano and part of the four part harmony chorus that act as the narrators of the show. I asked her to share her thoughts on the show and how she is enjoying being part of it.

Grainne: Tell me a little bit about the play and your role in it.

Meadhbh: Monster/ Clock is the first production by Collapsing Horse Theatre Company and it expounds the life of Toby (Jack Gleeson), a castigated monster and apprentice watchmaker who must flee his workshop in pursuit of his kidnapped guardian and the show follows his various encounters and escapades using puppetry, comedy and music.It’s an adventure story and it has a lovely philosophical moral to the tale. I sing mezzo-soprano in the four part harmony chorus. It’s such a fun show to be involved in!

Grainne: How has the audience response been?

Meadhbh: They are loving it, I think! The feedback has been so positive, it’s brilliant! We’ve got some great reviews and quite a lot of people are now coming to see the show twice and even three times! Word-of-mouth is also huge and it seems to be appealing to people right across the board. I think Monster/Clock has something very different in that it’s a very unique blend of many elements and therefore it’s inventive and very theatrical. The Smock Alley Boys School Theatre is also a beautiful space and an experience in itself.

Grainne: How did you get involved in singing and acting?

Meadhbh: I just recently graduated from Trinity with a degree in Drama and English. I’ve always loved theatre since as far back as I can remember, and particularly musicals. I was involved with lots of musical societies and stage schools growing up in Galway and hence I’m a big fan of the old razzle dazzle! Musicals seem to be having a real moment in Irish theatre right now, which is great! Monster/Clock is not a traditional style musical but the music element is a big part of the show. It’s an original choral score for four voices by the incredibly talented Dan Forde. It’s very different to what you will hear anywhere else. As regards the future, who knows?! I’m really enjoying this show, I’d love to continue performing and combining singing and theatre.

Grainne: How do you find working with puppets? Is it easier or harder than working with real live actors?

Meadhbh: It is so much easier working with puppets than actors! I’m joking, obviously the actors are operating the puppets (what, you say? Those weren’t real swans?!) and in Monster/Clock we don’t try and conceal that. Part of the joy for the audience is watching both the actor and puppet, and still investing in the puppet. As Raymond Keane of Barabbas told us, the puppet will always win an argument. People love the puppets, they want to get on side with them. Puppetry is a brilliant way to enchance storytelling and Aaron Heffernan’s puppets in Monster/Clock are really beautiful. We don’t operate puppets in the chorus, but act as a link between the audience and the imaginative puppet-world. I sort of believe they are all real now too!

Monster/Clock has added three extra performances next week due to popular demand. It’s on in the Boy’s School at Smock Alley and there are two shows on Friday and Saturday (Friday at 5pm and 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm). Next week there are evening performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can book tickets here.