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 – part 2.

Images for The Year of Magical Wanking, Where Do I Start?, Eternal Rising of the Sun, In My Bed.
Weekend Viewing: (clockwise from top left) The Year of Magical Wanking, Where Do I Start?, Eternal Rising of the Sun, In My Bed.

I am heading back to the Dublin this evening to get my final dose of the Fringe for this year. I have tickets for The Year of Magical Wanking which is getting great reviews and I’m really looking forward to it, and the final performance of Where Do I Start? at lunchtime on Saturday. Last Monday, I also bought tickets to Eternal Rising of the Sun and In My Bed (now almost sold out), after they both got great reviews last weekend. I’m just started a course called Ensemble Acting but most of my Fringe viewing has been one-man/woman shows. I’m also really looking forward to Pop Céilí on Saturday night. Hurray for another Fringe weekend!

Of course there are loads of other shows that I would love to see but can’t fit in. If you are stuck dumb by the selection on offer, may I suggest;

Man of Valour – getting great reviews from all over the place and I’m raging I can’t fit it into my Fringe schedule. I’m hoping they will do another run sometime soon.

Luca and the Sunshine – also getting great reviews and it sounds like a sweet fairytale. It stars John Cronin who was our Bill for End of the Road and is always excellent.

Jumping Off the Earth – part of the Rough Magic SEEDS Programme and directed by José Miguel Jiménez, one fifth of The Company, it sounds like a very interesting show.

Follow – a chance to visit the new Lir Theatre see a show in sign-language.

TwentyTen, the omnibus edition – if you can manage 6 hours in the theatre absorbing all of 2010, then THEATREclub will buy you a drink. Seriously – there’s a free vodka and mixer for everyone in the audience after Saturday’s show.

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.

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!

Reviews, finally

These are the shows that I did manage to see at this year’s Fringe;

As you are now so once were we
Two weeks after seeing the show, I finally get the name right! I’ve just been calling it the play by The Company . As I said before, I really enjoyed it. It made me smile and I left the theatre feeling very joyful.

I loved the set – loads and loads of cardboard boxes stacked up on top of each other, used to represent everything from fast food chains to tall buildings, chairs or bank machines. (Photos available here.) It was a fluid, ever-changing set – in more ways than one as the cast argued about what a particular box actually was.

That tongue-twister of a title comes from Ulysses and the show was based on Joyce’s book. Not so much on the story (not that Ulysses really has a story) but more on the essence of the book, which meant it was about Dublin and a day in a life in Dublin. Or in this case, a day in the lives because the show also used Ulysses ever shifting narrator, but here the narrators disagreed with each others and events were re-told from a difference perspective as the narrative control was passed from actor to actor.

Like Joyce’s book it was very much grounded in time and place. It was set in Dublin in September 2010, name checking people and places that exist here and now. And like Joyce’s book, it made me notice things about Dublin that I hadn’t seen before.

It was also a very funny show which is properly why I came out smiling. I really hope it gets another run at the Project because I would really like to see it again!

Camille O’Sullivan: Chameleon
I saw Camille in the Fringe Factory on the Friday night and enjoyed her show as much as ever. I did sort of miss the Spiegeltent but this was smaller, more intimate venue. I managed to get a seat up front, close to the stage – I’m not sure how it was further back because the stage seemed quite low and the room was long and narrow.

Camille O’Sullivan is a tiny, little thing. She came onstage with about six layers of outfits on and she was still a tiny, little thing. These layers were gradually discarded (the Chameleon part of the title?), so there were lots of different costumes and characters throughout the evening!

Greatest Hits
Last Thursday I was Greatest Hits in the Project. The programme described it as “Operatic Electric sound theatre” which is accurate but for some reason I was expecting more story. Possible there were stories in the songs that I missed because the vocals were often drowned out by all the other instruments. This might have been an opening night glitch. Probably for a lot of people it wouldn’t be a problem at all but my brain likes stories! The songs were interesting to listen to and it was a strong visual piece as well, with a wide variety of instruments and other sound making devices.

Greenstick Boy
I mostly saw this because it was on on Saturday lunchtime when I didn’t need to be somewhere, and because I like going to see one-woman shows and seeing how other people do it. I also liked the promo image.

I find Bewley’s Cafe Theatre a bit of an odd venue. It’s so small and they leave all the tables out even when they aren’t serving food, and the last couple of times I’ve been there it’s been weirdly empty. It’s not a theatre I feel particularly comfortable in but I did enjoy the performance. It was a simple enough piece of theatre but very well performed by Maggie Cronin who had to compete with the buskers on Grafton Street and did so fantastically! She definitely held her own and held my attention throughout the play. I liked the set and the change it underwent through the play.

It did reenforce something about my own taste in theatre – I like shows more when the actors acknowledge the audience and the fact that they are performing in front of other people. Maybe this is why I love Camille’s cabaret and enjoy stand-up so much. Even though Greenstick Boy was delivered straight out to the audience, it was done in such a way that the character was almost talking to themselves or to another off-stage character in that fictional world.

So I enjoyed the play and learnt something from it – pretty good for a Saturday afternoon!

And that was my Fringe. I had a ticket for Cappuccino Culture on Saturday night but decided to stay in the Project and watch Trilogy again instead. But that show is a whole other post!

Early Bird Offer for Fringe Festival

The Fringe Festival’s Early Bird offer ends tomorrow, September 25. Use the promo code earlybird2010 to get 10% off orders above €75 or 5% off orders below €75.

If you are having trouble deciding what to go and see, my recommendations are;

– The fantastic Camille O’Sullivan, for the last two years she has been a highlight of my Fringe. You will love it!
– The Company’s As you are now so once were we. The title is a bit of tongue twister, but check out the trailer!
The Pajama Men at the Fringe Factory – I haven’t seen them but I have heard lots of good things about them. Not to be confused with Pajama Girls)
Trilogy – tickets are less than €20 and the show is three hours long! That has to be some of the best value on the Fringe!