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!

Singlehood Experiences

I spent the second half of 2014 working on UMCK Productions’ tour of Singlehood. I’d worked with director Una McKevitt before, on Moving City with Maeve Higgins and on a week of development for Long Day’s Journey into Night. I’d also seen Singlehood in the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2012 and really enjoyed the show. I was thrilled to get the job. It was a much bigger show than anything else I’d worked on before – bigger cast, bigger venues, bigger budget. It was really exciting. When I came onboard, the tour had already been set up which meant splits and guarantees had been negotiated and funding had been obtained. We had money and part of my job to manage that money and stretch it as far as it would go. It was my first time working on a touring show but I was working with someone with a lot more experience than me, who has experience about what you can ask for and expect from a venue. We also had a lot of support from the venues, and from MCD who co-produced the show when it was on in the Olympia. It was still a steep learning-curve for me, but one I embraced and enjoyed immensely.

I also got to work on a show that I really enjoyed. The show made me laugh every night throughout the tour and I was happy to nag friends to come along to see it because I knew they’d have a good time. As a single lady I have a stake in the subject matter, and that helped too. I’m a bit of a cynical romantic and the show suits my temperament. There are are some happy stories but it’s not a “love conquers all” kind of show. It’s more of a “love somehow manages to barely survive despite everything” type of show – there are a fair few cynical moments. I went to a friend’s wedding a week after the Olympia run. All the talk in the church about life-long love and people spending their lives together as a joyful journey felt a bit jarring after all the singlehood chatter that had filled my life over the previous weeks! Though the message really the same – love is rare and precious, celebrate and cherish it.

SinglehoodOlympiaOur 12-date tour visited five venues over three months, from the beginning of September to the end of November. We started in the Naughton Studio in the beautiful Lyric Theatre in Belfast. It was the first time the cast has performed the show in about a year and a half, and PJ Gallagher’s first time performing the show for an audience. We had two fantastic sold out shows, with lovely generous audiences – and the tour had begun! Next stop was three nights in the Olympia which, size-wise is at the other end of the scale entirely. The Naughton is a small, studio space that seats 120 – the Olympia seats 10 times that many! It was a blast to work in the Olympia for the few days and have so many people see the show. We spent the October bank holiday in Galway, performing two nights at the Town Hall Theatre as part of the Vodafone Comedy Carnival which was a lot of fun. The final trip was to Cork in mid-November for three nights at the Everyman – another great, old-style theatre. Very like the Olympia on a slightly smaller scale. Finally there was the home-coming gig – two nights in the Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire.

It was a busy few months. All my work started long before we went out on the road. It’s one of those jobs where I know I was busy but it’s hard to recall what I did all day! My job title was General Manager, which included a bit of producing and a bit of managing. I spent a lot of time sending emails. I was the contact person for travel and accommodation bookings. I got the poster design signed-off and printed. I set up interviews for the cast. I learnt that I really like looking after the the nitty gritty – the budgets, the logistics, the details – but I’m not pushy enough to be a brilliant sales person. I learnt that audiences are unpredictable. I learnt that the hand-dryers in the Olympia sound like someone is hoovering just off-stage. I learnt to go back over my to do lists on a regular basis, in case I had forgotten something when six urgent tasks suddenly came flooding in. (I often found something – write everything down!)

I had a great time working on this show. It was a fun way to spend half a year and I learnt a lot! Now I will start 2015 unemployed again, so if you need some help with a show, please let me know! I’m an excellent General Manager – I will manage the hell out of your money