Fringe so far.

I am having a very enjoyable Fringe Festival. I’m enjoying my volunteer shifts and seeing lots of shows. I was getting a bit worn-out at the end of last week. By Friday evening I had completely run out of steam – poof, no more steam let, but I took it sort of easy over the weekend and am ready for another busy week.

My first shift was on the first day of the Fringe, Saturday 5th September in the Absolut Fringe Factory in Smock Alley. The Factory is actually quite impressive. It a great tall space and has lots of nice Absolut Art winding up the wall.

Here’s what I’ve seen so far;

Anatomy of a Seagull
I saw this while I was volunteering and I was glad I hadn’t paid for my ticket. I didn’t really like it. I’d seen the National Youth Theatre version of The Seagull at the Peacock the previous week so I was maybe a little bit too familiar with the script. I also found the production too naturalistic for my taste. Possibly Loose Canon’s style is just not my kind of thing but this my problem not theirs. They won Best Production at last year’s Irish Times Theatre Awards for Phaedra’s Love, which I hated. I will give them another try. I’m going to see Jesus has my Mom in there and has beaten her up real bad on Thursday.

This is Not a Drill
I also saw this as part of a volunteer shift and I loved it. It wasn’t one that I was planning to see, I hadn’t even really noticed it in the programme so I’m delighted that I got to see it by change. It was very much my kind of theatre. Beautifully written, dark and funny, it was non-naturalistic and a bit weird. I loved the very clever use of technology (yes I am a big nerd but that kind of thing. I grabbed the director afterwards to find an explanation for some of that wonderful tech.) and repetition that really worked. It reminded me of Forced Entertainment (mainly Speak Bitterness) and Katie Mitchell’s production of The Waves that I saw at the Dublin Theatre Festival last year. I left the performance feeling joyful with a big smile on my face, which is an odd way to leave a show about the end of the world! I saw it again the next night because I had the same shift again, but I was happy to watch it again.

The Blanch
Very funny and sometimes a little bit disturbing. Three actors played I-don’t-know-how-many characters and live music and sound effects were provided by onstage performers, it was fantastic. The characters were a little bit terrifying, especially since the house lights were up for the entire and they did look straight at you. It was wonderfully weird and very contemporary.

Who is Fergal Fitzpatrick
I went to see this show because a couple of people had recommended it to me. And I did like it but I think my expectations were maybe two high. It was interesting and a clever way of looking at theatre, what we expect from theatre and ways to distort these expectations. I think it was a high-concept show that was well executed. It didn’t really have me leaving the theatre with a big smile on my face but it did make me think.

Le Clique
I can’t really offer a full review of this one because I only saw the second half of the show while I was volunteering. What I saw was still fantastic – the physical abilities of the performers is breathtaking, but they are also entertaining! One of my jobs on the night was to look out for people taking photos because this is strictly prohibited. I didn’t see anyone with a camera in their hands. All I could see were rapt faces gazing up at the magnificent spectacles taking place on stage. However, it’s hard to pay that much attention to the audience when there’s a girl being spun around by her partner onstage, he’s on roller-skates and she’s just has her foot hooked around his neck! It sounds impossible but it happened. I was ready to duck, just in case she came flying at me!

Power Point
I saw this on Sunday evening. I think it was probably their 8 consecutive night performing. I got the feeling that the actors were a little off, that timing wasn’t quite right. It felt sloppy to me. It was a strange show anyway – the audience are at a business seminar and the people giving the seminar are a little odd, and having a few problems of their own. I loved the set-up, it’s a great idea but for me, it just didn’t quite work. Maybe I just didn’t get it. There were just too many things happening that didn’t fit together and I left feeling a bit disappointed.

The Legend of Zorroco
This was a one-woman show and I was the preview performance. It was a Spanish nanny who really wants to be the Rose of Tralee. It was very funny and I think it will get better as the week goes on. It had loads of little jokes, mostly at the expense of the Irish, a great story and a sympathetic main character. I really enjoyed it.

Iris Brunette
Another one-woman show but very very different. Where Zorroco was one woman behind a microphone, Iris Brunette had many lighting and sound cues and used the audience to stand in for other characters in the story. It was a slightly troubling tale about love in a weird, post-apocalyptic world. I liked it a lot.

Dublin Fringe Festival

At the beginning of September, I was still getting used to having a full time job again and life was about to get even busier with the start of the Dublin Fringe Festival.

The last time I volunteered for the Fringe was in 2004. I wasn’t in youth theatre any more and it had been a while since I’d been on stage, or done anything theatrical in any way, shape or form. And I missed it. I didn’t realise how much I much I missed it until I started volunteering for the Fringe. I didn’t even last the whole festival because helping out and watching other people have all the fun made me so miserable. I think it was one of the things that finally pushed me towards studying drama.

I was a bit reluctant to volunteer this year because of my miserable experience the last time but I decided it had helped me get on the right path, and I should give it another change. I thought it would be a good way to find out what sort of work was being creating in Dublin, figure out a bit about the different companies in the city and what they’re up to and meet like-minded people.

And it worked out pretty well! I was insanely busy – working all week and then volunteering for 4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays, and also trying to make time to go and see a few shows – but I enjoyed it. I did a few different shifts at different venues, working with different people and I had a great time. I had some great conversations with people with goals and ambitions that might be considered unconventional because they don’t revolve around making lots of money, people just like me! People were really easy to talk to and I was reminded of how much I’ve changed over the last four years. I’ve become much more confident and find it easier to start conversations with people I don’t know, I’m more sure of myself and feel that I have something to say that people will find worth listening to. I meet some great people, but I really make any new friends because I didn’t manage to get anyones number or e-mail address. I may be less shy than I used to be but I’m not that ballsy!

My favourite volunteering shift was the Saturday afternoon at Grand Canal Dock for a number of our-door performances. It was a beautiful, hot and sunny day and I was responsible for general crowd-control. I saw some great performances too. There was the physical performances inside a giant tube of water, which managed to be funny and beautiful, the guy “dancing” with a mechanical digger created a wonderful and powerful love story, and there was the two girls who hopped, skipped and jumped along a tight-rope – in high heels! They were untraditional, creative performances that the audience of families and small children loved. It was a really fun day.

I tried to go and see as many shows as I could, and take advantage of volunteer vouchers and concessions, but time-constraints made it difficult. I did go and see Little Gem at the Project with my mum and we both loved it. It was funny and touching and the three actresses were wonderful. I also saw Camille O’Sullivan (and friends) in the Speilgeltent for The Cat’s Meow. That was a great night out as well. I didn’t make it to La Clique, which I’m kicking myself for missing. I’ll definitely try and see it next year.

And just last Friday, I saw a wonderfully, weird show in the Samuel Beckett theatre called “I’m So Close It’s Not Even Funny.” It had a lot of the same themes as my dissertation piece and I think they managed to create the right sort of atmosphere for those themes. There was a lot of very clever multimedia that it reminded me of “Water”. It was a lovely and uplifting piece of theatre.

The last few weeks of theatre and work and running all over Dublin has left me exhausted but I enjoyed it immensely. I’m looking forward to the next Fringe Festival already! And next year, I want to be in it!