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!
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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.

Absolut Fringe 2012

There are so many exciting shows in this year’s Fringe that it’s hard to compile a short list of favourites. Previews start today and because they’re a bit cheaper it’s usually a good time to try something new. (New shows are starting all the time so there will be previews happening throughout the festival.)

There’s also lots of returning artists who you can rely on for a good show, such as Thisispopbaby, The Company, THEATREclub, Una McKevitt and Talking Shop Ensemble. And there’s the Macnas parades – Rumpus and The Cockroach and the Inventor which are always worth a look, and free! You do need a ticket though, which has to be collected in person from the Box Office in Filmbase.

A limited about of time and money sadly makes it impossible to see everything I want to see, so here is my list of favourites. It’s a long list and I know I’m not going to get to everything.

Elevator
I’m really looking forward to this show. It has the same writer and director as Alice in Funderland, which I really enjoyed earlier this year, and also has songs! The plot, involving the uber-rich and a party that gets out of hand sounds intriguing.

Sparkplug
Last January I saw Little John Nee’s last show The Mothers Arms in Galway and it was one of the most enjoyable shows I saw all year. It had some amazing songs and loads of jokes. I’m hoping for more of the same from this show. And if you are in Galway, you can see The Mothers Arms in the Town Hall Theatre this week.

Anna in Between
I love the poster for this show; it’s both pretty and intriguing. Despite the pretty poster, it sounds like it will be a dark, funny show. With songs.

Farm
This is another show that I don’t know that much about but I am intrigued by. I know the company won Spirit of the Fringe last year and this show sounds ambitious and interesting. It promises to bring the countryside into the city. I want to see how they do it.

Solpadine is my Boyfriend
I love the poster and the pill packet that doubles as flyer and I like to go and see one-woman shows. This one is about growing up which feels relevant to me at the moment – turning thirty and graduating from college (again) in the same year, shouldn’t I start feeling like a grown-up soon?

Show in a Bag
Show in a Bag is back with five new shows this year, with lunchtime and evening slots at 1pm, 6pm and 8pm, all €10. The Wheelchair on My Face, which was one of last year’s shows in a bag, won the Scotsman Fringe First at this year’s Edinburgh festival. These are very good shows at a very reasonable price!

Straight to DVD
I’ve caught pieces of Ponydance’s performances over the years, a little bit at the Fringe Awards in the Speigaltent, the second half of Anybody Waiting? when they were performing it all over the city for Fringe 2010, and I’m keen to see more. Their shows seem to have a great sense of humour.

Flatpack
It’s an opera about Ikea. And like the flat-packed Swedish furniture, you have to put the pieces together yourself. It’s a promenade performance across five rooms that leaves the audience to work out how the different scenes slot together. I’ve never been to an opera before and I would be a little bit nervous of it, but this sounds fun and not too scary!

West Coast Cool
After spending a wonderful year in Galway, I had to include this is a strand of work by companies from the west of Ireland. Geography is the only thing that links them and I think there’s something for everybody among the five shows happening in Smock Alley.

Mirror, Mirror
Fairytales with aerial hoops, silks and pole dancing – what’s not to like!

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit
This is another show that I’m mostly just curious about. Each day a different actor will perform a script they’ve never seen before, by an Iranian who was forbidden to leave his country. And it’s another show that’s only €10!

Believe it or not, I left things off that very long list. There’s so many great things happening that I recommend you pick up a brochure in Filmbase and spend some time looking through. I’ve have a few problems browsing the website so I recommend the physical brochure but I have a lot of problems with the website in general this year!

Often it doesn’t load properly and I just have a big black box in the middle of the screen, which such a waste of space. The text is too big. I’m sure it looked beautiful on the web designer’s huge Mac screen but on my three year old laptop, it’s really too big to be useful. The drop down menus go down below the bottom of the screen, making them very tricky to use. I don’t find the lists useful anyway. For a start, it took me at least three visits to the site before I realised that you have to make you selection and then make press the Go button. (I notice they have tried to make that clearer now.) I thought all the ‘Daring’, ‘Theatre’, ‘Political’, ‘Art’, etc listings were just broken links. I also don’t like the idea of limiting your search terms. I miss last year’s choices of ‘Shows for under a tenner’, ‘Shows to bring your Mam to’, etc. They brought up choices that I might not have seen otherwise and for me, going outside your comfort zone and seeing things you know almost nothing about is what the Fringe is for.

Pick up a brochure, take a risk on something new and step outside your comfort zone! And have a great Fringe!

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!

Show in a Bag 2011

Fishamble, Dublin Fringe Festival and the Irish Theatre Institute have combined forces again for another round of Show in the Bag shows. It’s not surprising when last year’s shows were so successful, both in the Fringe Awards (three shows nominated for the Little Gem award, two for best male performer, both won by Fight Night) and since the end of the festival. Fight Night is on in in Bewley’s May 9 – June 11, Connected played to packed houses upstairs in the Project, and The Sit had a successful three week run at Bewley’s.

It’s a change to work with a great playwright and avail of a great deal of support from the ITI and the Fringe. It’s a fantastic opportunity because the main aim is to create to show that has a life of it’s own after the Festival and I think that is really valuable.

The closing date is Friday, 29 April and the full details can be found here.

Things I’m doing this week

This week I am mostly:

1. Attempting to get the supporting documents for my MA application organised so I can (finally) send them off to Galway. This includes writing a personal statement. Why is it so hard to write 600 words about myself? I should have sent all this stuff off last week but I was waiting for college transcripts from the UK and avoiding my personal statement.

2. Working on this year’s V-Day production of The Vagina Monologues! This should be Number 1 because it’s much more exciting! I am currently casting the show which will be on in The Sugar Club on April 13th. We will be raising money for Ruhama and V-Day and you can expect to hear lots more about that between now and then! If you’d like to get involved, leave a comment or email VDayDublin @ gmail.com. You can also like our Facebook page.

3. Spending lots of time in Project and seeing lots of plays! The Theatre Machine Turns You On, Vol 2 starts tonight! (Project Real Deal – Four plays for €22!) I’m seeing two plays tonight and two or three more at the weekend. I’m hoping to go and see Connected before it finishes this weekend as well.

4. Looking forward to tomorrow’s text class with ATI. First class was last week and I really enjoyed it. It’s made me think a lot about monologues and I’ll try and write down some of those thought here soon!

But for now, it’s back to the dreaded personal statement!

Theatre this February

As you are now so once were we opened in the Peacock this week. This was one of my favourite shows of the Fringe Festival and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. It’s funny and clever and made me smile; I can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s on until the 5th February.

The following week Connected opens in the Project. This is another show from last year’s Fringe, but one I didn’t manage to see. It was a Show in the Bag show and was nominated for Bewley’s Little Gem Award during the Fringe.

Bewley’s Café Theatre relaunched their website this week and it’s worth a look. ‘Life’ – a one woman show, on this Saturday evening looks interesting.

Also coming up in February is The Theatre Machine Turns You On – Volume II at the Project, February 15 – 19. I completely missed this mini-festival last year, so I’m looking forward to seeing a few shows this time around. The Project also has a Real Deal where you can get tickets to four shows for €22 – great value!

Fringe Awards or the great shows I missed at the Fringe

The winners of the 2010 Fringe Awards can be found here. The only one that I actually saw was the Best Production winner As You Are Now So Once Were We. (Review coming soon!)

The Show in a Bag crowd did very well, both in terms of nominations and winners. I didn’t see any of them because I was working but hopefully they will all have a life after the Fringe and I will get a chance to see them again.

Other shows that come up a lot are Berlin Love Tour, World’s End Lane and Heroin, which won the Spirit of the Fringe Award for TheatreClub.

World’s End Lane seems to have been the show to see this year. It gets a couple of mentions in the Irish Times Fringe round-up, as well as winning Best Off-Site Production. Louise Lowe is very good at making off-site and site specific work. I loved Anu Production’s Basin last year. I saw it by accident because I happened to be working at it, and I’m so glad I did. It was almost an art installation and the audience could pick and choose what they wanted to see. I’m sorry I missed World’s End Lane this year, though that Irish Times article makes it sound like a terrifying experience. It’s part one of a series of pieces about the area and I am not going to miss the rest!