Absolut Fringe 2012: Fringe Awards

The Absolut Fringe is over for another year, and what a wonderful Fringe it was! I had another great year volunteering with the festival and saw as many shows as my budget would allow.

The Fringe Awards happened last night in Meeting House Square, which was a wonderful out-door venue this year, playing host to Briefs almost every night of the festival as well as other acts. All the winners and nominations are listed on the Fringe Facebook page and, as usual, the list includes a whole lot of shows that I didn’t get a chance to see.

I’m looking forward to catching a lot of the winners when they come back again. The Lir Revival is a new award this year and the winners are given the opportunity to restage their winning production at The Lir. This year’s winners are Talking Shop Ensemble’s Death of a Tradesman (which also won the Fishamble New Writing Award for Shaun Dunne) and WillFredd’s Farm (which I tried and failed to get tickets for). I’m looking forward to seeing both of those shows when they are staged sometime between now and the end of the academic year. I have yet to see a show at The Lir so I’m looking forward to that too. I was down there a couple of times this Fringe as a volunteer and it seems like a great venue.

Death of a Tradesman is also part of this year’s Galway Theatre Festival which starts on next Monday.

Two more shows that I heard a lot of good things about but didn’t see myself were Paperdolls’ Constellations and Emma Martin’s Dogs. These two shows are closer to dance than straight theatre and both won big awards on Sunday night. Dogs won Best Production and Best Design and Constellations won Spirit of the Fringe. Paperdolls are definitely a company to keep an eye on!

So they are all the shows I didn’t see; I will post reviews of the ones I did manage over the next couple of days. And then we’ll get ready for the Dublin Theatre Festival which starts on Thursday!

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!

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.

Absolut Fringe 2011: Do You Read Me?

Do You Read Me?
Do You Read Me? by Talking Shop Ensemble and Shaun Dunne

The blurb for Do You Read Me? suggests it’s a state-of-nation sort of play; what do we believe in when we have been let down by the church, by the State and by all those in authority? Who do we look to for comfort? It didn’t really fulfil that brief but it is still a very enjoyable show.

The production uses the space in Smock Alley to great effect. The show takes place in the area of the Boys School that was used as the Fringe bar two years ago. It’s a fantastic space – a tall room where the ceiling is three floors above you with lots of old, exposed brick walls. It’s a spooky place to watch a show about communicating with the dead. When Shaun Dunne asks for a sign from the spirit world and we sat in silence waiting for this sign, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. Even I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise and I’m a confirmed sceptic!

It’s a fun show with lots of nice moments but the thing that makes this show so enjoyable is the great performances from the engaging, young cast. They provide good company for the hour while you learn a little bit about mediums and the effect they can have on people.

It closes tomorrow so you have two more chances to see it. Book your tickets here.

First Look: Absolut Fringe

The launch of this year’s Absolut Fringe Festival programme took place on Wednesday evening in the brand new Festival Club venue – Top of the Town on Parnell Square East (opposite the Gate Theatre and up a bit). After a few short speeches and a bit of free vodka, we got out hands on the sleek black programme! As usual, there is a whole heap of wonderful stuff there and it’s all on the website as well. I like that they have kept the same web design as last year – I like the ‘Like This / See These’ suggestions on the right hand side and the categories section is really helpful. The whole thing is organised in a useful, helpful way and I like that.

And if anyone is still unsure where to start with this massive programme, I’ve picked 10 things that I would like to see. I’m not saying that these are the best things in the festival, this is just my top ten at this moment in time!

1. Man of Valour because I love Corn Exchange and this got some great reviews at the Cork Midsummer festival last month.

2. Twenty Ten for it’s scope and ambition. THEATREclub will put all of 2010 on stage, two months a night for 6 nights and then perform the whole year again in a 6 hour performance on Saturday morning.

3. Do You Read Me? by Talking Shop Ensemble and Shaun Dunne. I loved their last show I Am a Homebird (It’s very hard) and as a life-long sceptic, I’m interested in this show about mediums and clarvoyents.

4. Where Do I Start? I saw a half-hour verison of this at The Theatre Machine Turns You On and really liked it. I’m interested to see how it works as an extended show and as it says in the programme, Nyree is “one fifth of multi ABSOLUT Fringe award winners The Company” which is reason enough to see this show!

5. The Year of Magical Wanking. I love thisispopbaby and this got rave reviews at Queer Notions late last year. I think it’s another brave, ambitious show and has the wonderful warning Contains explicit adult themes and language. I love a show with language!

6. Autobiographer by Melanie Wilson because I saw Iris Brunette in 2009 and loved it. It was a weird and wonderful show that has stayed with me for two years.

7. In My Bed because I like one-woman shows and shows in weird places. This one takes place in a car park.

8. Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think of You because that’s a great title. And it’s another one-woman show. There’s quite a few of those in this year’s Fringe!

9. Love Songs for Losers because it’s on in The Stag’s Head which seems like the perfect venue for a show set in a grimy karaoke bar. And they were giving out lollipops at the launch!

10. Pop Ceili. I caught the last two songs by these guys last year and they were brilliant! I want to see more of them this year.

That’s my 10 for the moment. Booking is already open on the website and if you book this week with the Early Bird code you can get 10% off! And then you have something to look forward to this September.