All That Fall (asleep in the theatre)

Once my body decides it’s nap time I will fall asleep anywhere. Even if I don’t want to. Even if I am struggling to stay awake. I once attempted to nap while sitting on a high-stool in the kitchen at a house party. Someone sensibly put to bed before I took a tumble. I’m not a very sociable passenger because I’m likely to doze off in the passenger seat of the car, or the bus, train or plane. Any trip that’s over an hour long, I will have a little nap. My mum used to make fun of me for sleeping on the bus to and from work everyday. I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

While having a little snooze on the bus is reasonably acceptable, falling asleep in the theatre isn’t really. I don’t go to the theatre intending to fall asleep; it just happens. I’ll be watching a show, enjoying it even, when suddenly my head start to nod and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. I can’t help it. I might rest my eyes and keep my ears trained on the stage, hoping that the drowsiness will pass, but I know I’ve kidding myself. Once I close my eyes, a cat-nap is not far behind. I’m more likely to fall asleep in matinees than evening performances. Maybe because it’s the perfect set-up for a nap – sitting in a comfy chair, in the middle of the afternoon, with the lights down low, while someone tells you a story. It sounds exactly like nap time! Suddenly falling asleep seems like the only logical thing to do.

Beckett has a particularly soporific effect on me. I’ve dozed off during two different productions of Happy Days, one staring the fabulous Fiona Shaw. I missed Lucky’s speech in Waiting For Godot, because I was asleep in the stalls in the Gaiety, not the most comfortable of seats. Actually maybe I can’t blame the comfortable chairs for my tendency to snooze because I managed a couple of micro-naps during SJ Company’s The Women Speak while perched on a table or a low school bench.

I’m always desperately hoping that no-one notice as my eyes close and my head nods closer and closer to my chest. I’d hate to insult anybody with my inability to stay awake. It’s not you, I want to tell them, it’s me! It’s not a criticism of the production, it’s just that my brain has a hard time concentrating on Beckett for any length of time. It’s trying to find a nice, neat story where there isn’t one and then it shuts down in self-defence. It just needs a little break, it will boot up again in a few minutes.

My poor tired brain found solace in Pan Pan‘s All That Fall. It’s a radio play so closing your eyes is totally acceptable, and with the rocking-chairs and cushions it practically encourages a gentle trip to dreamland. (Napping in the theatre will give you very trippy dreams.) I can’t remember if I fell asleep during All That Fall, probably because I wasn’t struggling against it, I was able to drift in and out of the story without guilt and I really liked that. It’s a radio play that you listen to from your rocking chair, surrounded by lots of other rocking chairs. Light plays an important part of the experience too as it soothes or startles at different points in the play. It’s definitely my favourite way to see/hear Beckett.

All The Fall is on the Abbey stage until the end of this week. For anyone in need of a lunchtime nap, there are €15 euros tickets for the 1pm show, if you quote “Bewley’s Offer” online or on the phone. Go and have a cerebral and completely acceptable nap at lunchtime. Afterwards, you’ll be able to tell everyone that you napped on the Abbey stage.

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Friday Five: Alternative Valentine’s Day outings

5ofHeartsAs a single lady I’m probably supposed to be angry and bitter about Valentine’s Day but who has time for that? I think a day dedicated to the people you love is a nice idea – nobody says it has to be all about romantic love! Plus, I’m a big fan of flowers and chocolate so I look forward to the post-Valentine’s bargains!

For those in pursuit of an alternative Valentine’s here are five non-romantic outings that can be enjoyed by couples and non-couples alike!

1. Young Hearts Run Free are taking over the Freemasons Hall for Tinsmith’s Scoop, an evening of readings by Kevin Barry, Professor Declan Kiberd, and Paula Meehan, and music by I Am The Cosmos, Brigid Power-Ryce, Scotland’s Withered Hand, and Young Hearts DJ’s. It’s supposed to be a beautiful venue and I’m sure it will be a very special night. Tickets are €14 and all proceeds will go to the Simon Community.

2. The National Campaign For the Arts and the O’Reilly Theatre are hosting a Cabaret evening on Saturday night. I’ve no idea who will be performing but I’m sure the line-up will be excellent and there will be craft beer and wine deals. Tickets are available on the door for a suggested donation of €10.

3. Lifelogging, the new exhibition at the Science Gallery launched this week. It’s all about data and the information that we share or give away. It looks really interesting, they are open 12-6pm at the weekend and it’s free!

4. If you’re looking for something a little bit lovey-dovey, Pan Pan’s Gavin Quinn has directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Abbey. It’s a contemporary interpretation set in a nursing home, but still uses Shakespeare’s original text. It has a great cast and original music and I suspect it will be a very interesting interpretation of a classic play.

5. And if Shakespeare’s not your thing, the IFI are currently showing the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup, “probably their greatest film” and guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face this Valentine’s Day. It’s on Saturday and Sunday at 6.50pm and also Wednesday and Thursday next week.

My six theatre highlights from 2014

A lot of the end of year theatre wrap-up that I’ve read over the last couple of weeks started with the number of shows that person went to see and the number of venues they visited. I don’t have have those figures for you. I didn’t count and I stopped saving ticket stubs years ago. I don’t review shows for a living, I barely even review them here any more, so these are just my personal faves. They may not be biggest or best shows of the year but they are the ones that stuck with me.

  1. In December, Dublin Oldschool blew me away. I saw one of the last shows in Project – the matinee they added when everything else sold out – so I’d heard everyone raving about it for ages before I saw it ,and I still loved it. I loved the speedy dialogue and the pace of the show, the story was told well with a nice combination of dialogue and narrative and I really liked the attention to detail – the lighting, the way the mics were used, the glitter. The two performers did a terrific job. It’s a really full-on show – I was impressed by their stamina alone! It’s a real rollercoaster of a show and just great fun. There will be another run of Dublin Oldschool, produced by Project Arts Centre but I’m not sure when. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you go next time!
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  3. Has anyone written a “best of theatre list” this year that didn’t include Ballyturk? This was another one that managed to live up to the hype. A lot of people I talked to about the show said they didn’t know what it was about or even if they really liked it but they are still impressed by the performances or the dance routines or the set. The combination of fantastic, over-the-top, sometimes slap-stick performances and this weird, twisty play about life and death really worked for me. Landmark Productions had an incredible year and I’m so happy for them. I’m also looking forward to The Walworth Farce next week.
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    Quad
    Quad

  5. Pan Pan’s Quad was part of the Dublin Dance Festival but it was originally a television play by Beckett. (You can find those performances on YouTube.) He said it should never be performed in the theatre but Pan Pan got around this by making it a performance lecture. There was a mathematician who talked about other maths problems in Beckett’s writing, with a white board to work out the maths and vegetables for some reason – I can’t remember what the vegetables were for. The actual performance of the piece was hypnotic and strangely peaceful to watch but I really enjoyed the whole crazy set-up. It reminded me of being in college – it probably helps that the Space Upstairs in Project is a bit like a lecture hall – and learning interesting but ultimately useless information.
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  7. The fact that NOW-THEN-NOW is on my best of list is further proof that I am a giant theatre nerd at heart. This was the ANU symposium as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. I have been enjoying ANU’s work for so long and it was a great chance to look back at all the pieces of the Monto cycle, how they came about, how they relate to each other and to hear about the actors experiences performing the various pieces. I really enjoyed the two days and a big thank you to ANU and CREATE for doing it.
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    CARE
    CARE

  9. CARE by WillFredd was about hospice care. I’ve had relations who went into hospices and hospitals and others who died at home and I think end of life care is a huge topic that should be given more attention that it gets. CARE was a beautiful insight into the work that is done in hospices and the wonderful service they provide. It had a really light touch and managed to focus on the workers in a way that didn’t excluding the patient. Nobody took on the role of the patient and yet the entire show was about them. It was a wonderful combination of non-naturalistic scenes, musical interludes and jokes about cake. It was excellent.
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  11. I also have to include Singlehood on this list because it’s the show I spent most of the year talking and thinking about and a show that I enjoyed a lot!

Your guide to the IETM Dublin meeting

Last year, Project Arts Centre announced that they would be hosting the IETM Spring meeting. At that time, I knew next to nothing about IETM. I’ve had a bit of a crash course since then in preparation for the Dublin meeting which takes place from April 11 – 14.

IETMIETM_Dublin stands for Informal European Theatre Meeting. The group has changed it’s name to the more inclusive International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts but the original name gives you a better sense of what the whole thing is all about. Like the fact that it’s all about meeting people. IETM is not a conference. It’s a meeting. The aim of the three-day event is for delegates to meet people in the performing arts, in the hope that they will be like-minded individuals that they can form useful and long-lasting relationships with.

A couple of the events in the Dublin programme illustrate this point – on Saturday morning, Day 3 of the Conference there are two early morning events – Run! and Jump!, where attendees are invited to go for a run through Phoneix Park or a swim at Seapoint. This has nothing to do with theatre or the performing arts, but it is a good way to get to know people and a good first step to cultivating a relationship!

Making links with Europe can only be a good thing for the arts in Ireland. Our little island nation can be a bit too inward looking sometimes, or only influenced by British and American culture – people who literally speak our language. I think it’s a good thing to have outside influences coming in to add something new to the mix.

The theme of the Dublin meeting is “Trust” and all the sessions relate to that theme. Some of the ones that I really like the look of are; Are The Performing Arts Driving Us Mad? which is about the mental health of those working in the arts and the role that the arts can play in improving mental health; The Big Debate: How to trust and be trusted which takes place in different venues over the three days of the meeting; another practical one – Trust Circus To Take You Into The Unknown which involves trust games and circus skills and the opening night Reception with the wonderful Pop Ceili. These are all delegate only sessions which means you have to sign up and pay the registration fee to attend. Registration fees start at €75 but you don’t have to be a member of IETM to register for the meeting. This is the Early Bird offer which ends on March 28th. After that the fees double to €150 so if you are planning to attend, register soon! It can be a difficult, time-consuming process so don’t try and do it in a hurry!

All That Fall by Pan Pan Theatre
All That Fall by Pan Pan Theatre

And if, like me you can’t afford the registration fee, there’s still the Artistic Programme, which is open to both delegates and non-delegates. There are five performances – Pan Pan’s All That Fall, Brokentalkers Have I No Mouth, a gig curated by Dylan Tigue called Let the music do the talking and two dance pieces – John Scott Dance’s Body Duets and Fast Portraits by Liz Roche Company. There’s also live art happening in the Cube each evening, which is free and open to non-delegates. Tickets for the other pieces are €10 and available from Project. (Delegate tickets are €6 and available in person only, from April 11th.) Most of these performances are happening in Project Arts Centre, which is the Meeting Place and Hub for IETM which means you get a change to get a sense of the IETM atmosphere and maybe do a little mingling and networking without registering for the full meeting.

You can also get involved as a volunteer, if you have the time to spare. Volunteers are asked for at least 3 days commitment (8 hours a day) between 8th and 14th of April. There are more details here and applications close on Friday, March 22.

I think if you can afford to attend, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet other art practitioners from around Europe and hear what their work practices are like. It’s unlikely that a meeting will be held in Dublin again so this is the year to do it! Who knows who you might meet or what connections you could establish. And for those without tickets, I think it’s worth paying a visit to Project during those three days and seeing the whole thing in action. Again, who knows who you might bump into!

Theatre in 2012

I saw a lot of theatre this year, through college in the first half of the year and volunteering at the festivals in the autumn, but I still feel like there’s a lot that I missed. This is not a list of the ‘best of Irish theatre’ in 2012. This is a list of my personal favourites from the year.

Silent, Pat Kinevane and Fishamble
I’ve already written about some of the things I love about Silent but this 90-minute one-man play really is a complete tour de force. The LA Times described it as “Krapp’s Last Tape performed by Madonna” which is a pretty accurate description! A lot of the joy in this piece is found in Pat Kinevane’s performance. His portrayal of homeless McGoldrick, who once had splendid things, is so enthusiastic and full of fun. You don’t expect a story of homelessness and helplessness to be so funny, and this surprise adds another layer of joy to the piece.

Silent was Fishamble’s original Show in a Bag and the minimalist approach to set and props serve the story well. The story is engaging and well-told and touching without being sentimental. I saw it for the first time in the Town Hall Theatre in Galway early last year. Immediately after the show, I was eager to see it again and wanted to bring so many people to see it with me. I haven’t managed to do that yet. I missed it in the Peacock during the summer and in Smock Alley a couple of weeks ago, but I’m hoping to see it again before the year is out. The show is off to Australia this month but will be back touring Ireland in March.

Tiny Plays for Ireland, Fishamble
This is another Fishamble production and it was a fantastically ambitious project that was wonderfully executed. It started this time last year when Fishamble sent out a call in September 2011 for “tiny plays”, no more than 600 words. The response was huge and Fishamble received over 1,700 entries. The final production – twenty-five tiny plays in the space of an hour, on the same set with the same actors – was done so beautifully and so simply that it actually did create a snap-shot of the Ireland. With a clever use of costume and a few wigs, the cast manage to play teenagers, married couples and elder statesmen convincingly. Seeing the quick changes and multiple characters was part of the enjoyment of the production. There was a wonderful mix of comedy and heart-break in the production as a whole, and sometimes even in the same short play.

Because of the huge numbers of entries received and the high quality of the writing, Fishamble put together a second collection of plays and Tiny Plays 2 opens in the Project Arts Centre in March. It’s something worth seeing even if you are not a regular theatre goer or know someone who you want to encourage into the theatre! The little snippets mean that if you don’t like what’s going on onstage right now, there’ll be something different along in a minute. I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

The Mothers Arms, Little John Nee
I saw this show last January in the Town Hall Theatre. It was the first play we went to see as part of our reviewing class and so it was the first thing I had to review for that class. It was a tricky review to write because I really loved the show but found it difficult to find words to describe what happened on stage or why I enjoyed it so much.

I went in to the show knowing nothing at all about Little John Nee and came out a life-long fan. It was a joyous piece of theatre set in a the public house of the title, somewhere in the wilds of Donegal and involved lots of music and a far amount of silliness. Little John Nee is another wonderful performer and a joy to watch as he switched between seven or eight different characters. I laughed my head off and had a wonderful evening. I have yet to see his follow-up show Sparkplug but I am keeping an eye out for it and reccommend you do the same. (It is also nominated for an Irish Theatre Award for great Sound Design.)

Alice in Funderland, thisispopbaby and the Abbey Theatre
I’ll keep this brief because I’ve already written loads about Alice on this blog but it really was one of my favourite things of 2012. I often think of it when I’m sitting in the Abbey before a show, wishing there were twinkling glitter balls on the ceiling. (I’m very partial to a bit of disco ball action.) It was unlike anything else I’ve seen on the Irish stage. It really had more in common with a West End musical in the brash, brightness of the production and the slick song and dance routines. But at the same time there was a very Irish sense of humour running through and some truly beautiful songs.

Boys of Foley Street, ANU Productions
I didn’t find Boys of Foley Street quite as harrowing as last year’s Laundry, perhaps I’d been working in the Lab for two days before I saw the show so I had some idea of what to expect. However it was a visceral and heart-breaking piece of theatre, with fantastic performances.

The time spent in the flat was particularly terrifying. Much of the piece took place out on the street, so suddenly finding yourself trapped in the small flat was a bit of a shock. Seeing the hidden, private lives of people trapped by drugs and poverty made me feel helpless. The performers so in your face that you felt trapped. It was completely immersive and left me feeling sakend and disjointed.

The final piece of ANU’s Foley Street project Vardo Corner will be in Gypsy Rose’s caravan, which I imagine will have a similar terrifying claustrophobia to it!

A Doll House, Pan Pan
This was the first production I saw in the newly renovated Smock Alley main stage. I thought the round, almost Shakespearean sitting suited it beautifully. I’d read A Doll’s House for the first time last year so it was fresh in my mind. Though it’s one of those plays that I’d been aware of for years. I really enjoyed Judith Roddy’s Nora – her manic energy and childish glee in the early scenes of the play were wonderful to watch and captured Nora’s character beautiful. Pan Pan manage to be both playful and academic in their interruption of classic texts and this was no exception. The nanny takes on the role of academic analysing the play but also plays games with Nora instead of her small children.

Pan Pan have a gift for putting their own unique and memorable stamp on classical plays. For example when I think of Hamlet, I think of a Great Dane called Toby and their production of Everyone is King Lear in Their Own Home means that when I see King Lear at the Abbey next month, I’ll probably walk out with a song about “a little mouse with clogs on” stuck in head. And I will probably always hear some of the lines from A Doll’s House in the Batman voice. In a glorious twist, Torvald goes to neighbour’s costume party as Batman and when he has his confrontation with Nora, he is still in full Batman mode. No matter how familiar you are with a text, PanPan force you to see it in a fresh way. But despite this playfulness, they also have a devotion to and respect for the text. And this was seen in the climax of the play when the actors lay in separate pools of light, on opposite sides of the stage and said their lines slowly and carefully, so that all the meaning had time to sink in and we could see their relationship slowly folding itself up and disappearing. It was beautifully done.

That’s my short (and very late) wrap up of my favourite 2012 theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to see some wonderful work already this year and I will be writing about that here soon.

“Playing the Dane” in Galway

Conor Madden, one of the three potential Hamlets
Conor Madden, one of the three potential Hamlets

I saw Pan Pan’s brilliant Playing the Dane at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2010 and loved it! If you’re going to see it, some basic knowledge of the story of Hamlet will help you enjoy it because it doesn’t really tell the whole story. But it does lots of other things instead, such as the first act which consists of auditions for the the part of Hamlet. After seeing the three auditions, the audience are then asked to vote for their favourite and the winner plays Hamlet in the second act! It deconstructions the play from a number of different angles; from the actors playing the eponymous Dane to an academic interpretation of the play. It is a different take on Hamlet but it’s very entertaining, the set is beautiful and there’s an actual Great Dane in the cast!

It’s on in the Black Box theatre in Galway tonight and tomorrow, tickets available from the Town Hall Theatre. Go see it!