Best of 2011

This list was going to be a top ten but there were too many performances that tied for 10th place that I couldn’t choose one. I decided to leave it at nine because these all had a little something extra that meant they stayed with me long after I left the theatre (or other site-specific location!)

Here are nine of my favourite theatre experiences this year:

  1. Way back at the beginning of 2011, I was lucky enough to see the work in progress preview of Thisispopbaby‘s Alice in Funderland. It was a musical with vivid characters, great songs and loads of jokes. I loved it. I saw it with a friend who, since then has asked me at least 23 times since then when the full production will take place. When can we go see it again? I was just as eager because there are so many people I want to see this wonderful show. I’m delighted that it has a long run at the Abbey later this year and I will be able to drag lots of people along to enjoy it!
  2. Another show that moved from the Project to the Abbey was The Company‘s As you are now so once were we which was part of the 2010 Fringe Festival and was in the Peacock earlier this year. It’s a bit of a cheat to have it in this year’s favourites but I was delighted to see it again. It was such a joyous piece of theatre and I’m glad it got more than just a week at the Fringe. It toured to LA in June as part of Imagine Ireland and the run even included a performance on Bloomsday!
  3. I’ve mentioned I Am a Homebird (It’s Very Hard) a few times on this blog this year. (The main review is here.) I first saw it in February as part of The Theatre Machine Turns You On, Volume II and then went back to see the full, finished piece later in the year. It was a moving piece of theatre that I loved so much that I wrote a short piece about it for one of my college courses.
  4. Mimic was a one-man show that completely absorbed you in it’s dystopian world. It was a little bit like Forced Entertainment’s Void Story, but was also completely different with music and impressions and little bits of songs.
  5. Because I am likely to get excited about new writing than old, there are very few things on my list by dead playwrights but Pygmalion at the Abbey was excellent. It was performed at the Abbey for the first time this year and it was a lavish production with a flawless cast. Everybody on stage was fantastic, the set was cunning and clever, as well as being beautiful to look at and all these elements worked together to tell a great story. I really enjoyed it.
  6. I saw another play by a dead playwright the same week I saw Pygmalion: Loose canon’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The two were very different. Where the Abbey had a cast of sixteen all playing their own part in lavish costumes, on a wonderfully intricate and detailed set, Loose Canon has a cast of five, playing 15 characters on a bare white stage. Both had a very strong cast and both were very enjoyable. Loose Canon also had a lovely dead-pan Puck!
  7. End of the Road was a tour de force of wonderful ideas performed by a fantastically strong cast. I was astounded by the way it made interactive performance look easy.
  8. End of the Road was a Fishamble production, directed by Louise Lowe who was also in charge of a piece of theatre that I’ve already seen on many end of year lists – the heart-breakingly beautiful Laundry. I was nervous about going to see this production; partly because of the subject matter; partly because of the one-on-one nature of the piece and mostly because I’m a coward. I’m so glad I did see it though because it felt important to be a witness a this bleak chapter of Irish history. It was also a wonderful piece of theatre, moving and sad and so immersive that it took a little while to shake it off afterwards. I talked about it with my classmates afterwards; it was a piece of theatre that you wanted to talk about. It’s a wonderful example of the power and the ability of theatre to change things.
  9. I only managed to see the last hour and a half of THEATREclub’s epic six hour omnibus episode of Twenty Ten and I wish I’d seen more. I did see the first hour the previous Saturday but I suspect it gave a much better sense of the crazy ups and downs of 2010 when seen all in one go. It was an ambitious project well executed.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The question mark in the title of Loose Canon’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream suggests that this is not a direct translation of Shakespeare’s woodland comedy. It also highlights the dreamy side of Shakespeare’s play where nothing is quite as it seems. Despite being closer to the text than the title would suggest, Loose Canon really make this play about fairies and love-potions their own.

The cast of five play 14 characters in a play which has three different story-lines running through it. This sounds like it would be difficult to follow but the skill of the performers and the clear direction actually makes it very easy. Loose Canon’s experience with classical texts is evident in the ease with which they play with Shakespeare’s text.

There are great performances from every member of the cast as they skillfully change characters, sometimes mid-scene! Bottom (Ger Kelly) was very funny, and a proper ass even before he earned his horse’s head. Instead of the typical mischievous sprite, Phil Kingston’s Puck is droll and dead-pan in his clumpy Doc boots and pink fairy-wings. He provides a wonderful contrast to the flowery, over the top delivery of Barry O’Connor as Oberon, the King of the Fairies and the two have some wonderful scenes together. Helena and Hermione (Caitriona Ni Mhurchu and Louise Lewis, respectively) are fantastically spiteful and cruel as the warring friends who, thanks to the fairy’s meddling, end up fighting off the advances of the same man.

The set is white and clean. It is reminiscent of the set from Peter Brook’s famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1970 except in this version the clean atheistic is interrupted by the messy tables on one side of the stage. They are over-flowing with bottles of alcohol and half-full glasses, cigarettes and records, like the remains of a party. It gives the play an edge of over-indulgent debauchery.

The Peter Brook play features briefly in the clips that are played throughout the play. This multimedia aspect didn’t always work for me. At times, the jerky video clips of past productions are a nice additional layer of unrealness and it is a clever way of skimming over the less interesting parts of the play. However, sometimes they seemed to be explaining things to the audience which didn’t need explaining.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable production of Shakespeare’s well-known romantic comedy. In this version the comedy is definitely brought to front. Shakespeare’s jokes are sometimes a little bit hit and miss but this production managed to make them genuinely funny. This production is clever and funny and very much worth seeing.

Last chance to see – Dublin theatre this week

  • Fight Night at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre until June 18th. This was one of last year’s Show in a Bag shows. It won the Bewley’s Little Gem Award at the Fringe Awards 2010, and Aonghus Óg McAnally won the Best Actor Award as well. It’s a one-man that is fast-paced, funny and moving. Go and see it any lunchtime this week.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream? by Loose Canon at Project Arts Centre until June 18th. This is a really interesting and enjoyable show. It stays close to Shakespeare’s text but still manage to make it there own. A little bit odd but very much worth seeing.
  • Pygmalion at the Abbey was going to be on this list but it closed last Saturday. It was a wonderful production with an immensely talented cast, and of course a great script by Mr. George Bernard Shaw. If this production turns up at the Abbey or elsewhere again – get your tickets quick!

There will be reviews of all these shows coming to blog later in the week. Go and see them so you can tell me how wrong or right I am!