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.

Review of the year

Even though the calendar has already changed, it still feels to me like the new year hasn’t quite begun. The Christmas celebrations are all over but real life hasn’t started up again just yet. There is a definite feeling of things ending and the possibility of new beginnings and a definite time for reflecting on the past and making resolutions for the future.

This time last year, I was working on my final assignment for the Open University playwriting course I’d started the previous November. It was due in the last week of January, the same week I started another playwriting course with the Gaiety School of Acting. I really enjoyed both courses, liked learning about how to put a play together and wrestling with dialogue that always seemed to say too much about what was happening on stage and not enough about the character saying it. I didn’t find it easy but I did enjoy the challenge.

The Vagina Monologues rehearsals were also going in the first few months of the year. I love that play – there is so much in each monologue, they are funny and moving and heart-breakingly sad in turn, but they also each have a very clear voice. I’ve done the play twice and I’ve heard each monologue many, many times but I still love listening to them. As well as each individual monologue being wonderful, the play as a whole works fantastically well. It brings the audience on a journey but also takes care of them. I would love to be able to write a play like that.

I enjoyed being part of The Vagina Monologues for lots of reason. I’ve already listed them all here, so I won’t repeat myself.

In May, I went to Project Brand New and wrote lots about the pieces I saw over the three nights. As ever, I was inspired by the wonderful and diverse theatre that I saw there. (I didn’t write about PBN 6 at the end of December because I was sick with a cold and missed all three nights. I avoided the theatre for the sake of the other audience members who would not have wanted to have me sneezing and snuffling near them!)

After being inspired by the PBN pieces, I went on to apply for Show in a Bag and was delighted to make it to the interview stage, though not on the actual stage!

In September I had the glorious experience that was dancing naked with Trilogy! (And there are still many people stumbling on this blog while searching for “naked dancing”!) I had a wonderful week of rehearsals and performances with a fantastic group of women, who I am lucky enough to still be in touch with! I loved every minute of it. I learnt that being naked on-stage is not that scary and it reaffirmed everything I love about theatre. I was so proud and grateful to be a part of it.

In October, I devoted a lot of time to the Dublin Theatre Festival. With apprehension I went along to the Ontroerend Goed trilogy (I loved The Smile Off Your Face, didn’t really like Internal – I felt a bit let down by it and I found the The Game of You really interesting and enjoyable but not very theatrical. All three were interesting in their own way though.) I had my brain turned inside out by The Author, enjoyed Enron, Circa, The Silver Tassie and John Gabriel Borkman. I also really enjoyed Playing the Dane which was full of interesting twists and had a great cast. I saw a lot of really wonderful theatre in September and October and I’m already looking forward to the 2011 festivals.

I did a few other theatre-type things this year. I volunteered for the Fringe Festival, the Dublin Theatre Festival and thisispopbaby‘s Queer Notions. I did some voice and acting classes with Actor Training Ireland. I went to auditions and castings for plays, short films and ads. I read plays and about people writing plays. I saw a lot of great theatre and vowed many times to make something that was that moving or funny or clever or just plain wonderful.

All in all, 2010 was a very enjoyable year.

Highlight of the Year: I think it has to be Trilogy. I can’t even pick out one moment that really stands out as a high because it was the whole experience that meant so much to me. If I had to choose, it would be finally seeing the full performance for the first time and being so moved by it, and so proud to be a small part of it. It reminded me why I love theatre, it reminded me how powerful theatre can be and really renewed my desire to make theatre.

Lows: I really enjoyed the playwriting courses at the beginning of the year and I regret not doing more writing after the courses ended. I also went to a lot of auditions that led to nothing and that was a bit of a low.

Resolutions: This year I would like to be more successful at auditions. I also want to stop waiting for someone to cast me and start making things myself. I want to try my hand at playwriting again.

I also intend to keep seeing more great theatre and hopefully writing about it here but mostly I want to make creating art a bigger part of my life. That’s my big resolution for 2011!