What to book now for Dublin Theatre Festival 2016

Tickets for this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival go on sale for the general public this morning at 10am and I am making plans – what to see, when to see it, what to book now and what to book later. My early booking is financially strategic; if I don’t book my Festival shows now, I’ll spend all my money at the Fringe and by October I’ll be too broke to see anything.

I really like the Dublin Theatre Festival and I want to see as much as I can. It’s a great opportunity to experience theatre from other parts of the world, as well as seeing big shows from Irish companies. It’s also a chance to see a crazy amount of theatre in a short space of time. Following so quickly after Fringe, this can be a bit head-melting. But in a good way.

Here are some of my early booking picks:

These rooms by Anu & Cois Ceim
This one I’ll definitely be grabbing a ticket for. It’s on in a couple of houses in Dorset Street and capacity is limited. Some shows has already sold out, and I’d be surprised if the entire run isn’t fully booked before the Theatre Festival opens on September 29th. It’s a collaboration between Anu Productions and Cois Ceim and focuses on the experiences of the civilians who were caught up in the 1916 Rising.

Guerrilla by El Conde de Torrefiel
I have my eye on this one because I spend a lot of time in Spain but I haven’t actually seen any Spanish theatre, and this sounds a bit odd and interesting. A lot of the international shows have very short runs at the festival – this one is only on for three performances.

The Seagull by Corn Exchange
This is on in the Gaiety so tickets are unlikely to be gone too soon. I really like The Seagull. I’ve seen it a few times in various productions and I read a couple of different translations for an essay in college. It’s very funny and also has lots of fierce, ballsy female characters in it. Though things don’t generally end well for them and their existence tends to revolve around the men, they are still great characters in their own right. I’m also a big fan of Corn Exchange who make visually exciting theatre. I’m also a big fan of the two (female) cast members announced already – Derbhle Crotty and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman – so I think it will be a hot ticket this year. Tickets for the Gaiety are not cheap, but this play by this company – I think it will be worth it.

Alien Documentary by Una McKevitt
I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about this show for the last couple of years so I’ve very excited to see the finished product. It’s on in The Cube in Project for nearly two weeks. Long run but a small venue and I think it will be popular.

Crisis Meeting by Kriðpleir and LÓKAL Performing Arts
This is a show from an Icelandic theatre company about writing an application for arts funding. I’m curious to see if you can make an engaging show about arts admin and if the company do manage to oscillate “anarchy, sitcom and Beckettian gravity” as their blurb claims. If you don’t fancy the risk on that one, there are a couple of other Northern European shows in the programme – you might prefer the “epic and vaudevillesque” style of Wishful Beginnings by VERK Produksjoner from Norway or the “switch between dance and  scattered questioning” is This is Not a Love Story by Swede Gunilla Heilborn.

It’s definitely worth booking something a little bit outside your comfort zone. It’s what festival’s are for!

summerdream

I have mixed feelings about booking a ticket for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Bord Gais. Again, it’s a play that I like and it looks like a fun, playful production but I’m not a fan of seeing theatre in the grand scale of the Bord Gais. I’ve been spoilt by all our wonderful intimate theatre spaces in Dublin.

I’m also on the fence about It’s Not Over, THEATREclub’s vision of The Plough and The Stars by Sean O’Casey. Do I want to see another production of the The Plough? Can I sit through a four and a half hour production of The Plough? I’m not sure.

I’m willing to be persuaded about both of these, and probably most of the other festival offerings. Is there anything else I should have on my early bird booking list? What’s on your list?

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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

565+

565+ was my first Dublin Theatre Festival show this year. It started life as part of Project Brand New‘s Bealtine project Generation in 2009. For me, that is an indication that Theatre Festival is becoming more open to untraditional types of theatre. It’s also a very good show!

I saw Una McKevitt’s last show Victor and Gord earlier this year and really enjoyed it. She really excels at making very personal, simple pieces of theatre that draw you in and give you a fascinating glimpse at someone’s else’s life. And when I say a “simple piece of theatre”, I mean that as a compliment! I know from experience how difficult that can be to get right. When I was devising theatre in college, the note that came up again and again was that we were trying to do too much. Always too many ideas and not enough clarity. Una McKevitt has a skill of making theatre about one thing, but making that one thing engaging and moving and beautiful.

I really enjoyed 565+. Of course, I am practically pre-programmed to like a play about how important and special theatre is! I liked the biographical details as well – it was like a potted history of life in Ireland in the last 30-40 years.

And I loved the set. It was bright and beautiful and the seating in the Cube (the downstairs space in the Project) was changed into “in the round”. (Is it still in the round when it’s only on three sides?) This really opened up the space and because then there was only three rows of seats on each side, even in the back row, you felt near the stage. It really drew me in to Marie’s world. I was in the Cube this evening for one of the Talking Theatre sessions and it was back to it’s usual set-up and I was just struck by how much of a transformation they achieved for the show.

As usual, I am so late writing about it that the show has already been and gone but hopefully it will be back again in the near future!