I am a Bird Now – Review

Theatre Upstairs

06/06/17

 

bird

Image by Ste Murray

 

Written and performed by Ross Gaynor, I am a Bird Now traces the distinct but intertwined threads of identity and trauma through three acts, titled Bruce, Donna, and Anthony (the three names the character assumes).  As the character traverses the evolution of their own identity and relationships with the lingering effects of a number of traumatic experiences, including having worked as a nurse after the July 2005 London bombing, we are invited to understand the difficulties this has created and the high and low points of their experience.

Under Sheils’ direction, Gaynor delivers a strong performance throughout, capturing the physicality of the character and layering the different aspects of his character with dexterity and skill. There are points at which the pacing of the narrative seemed drawn out further than necessary, and may have benefited from being condensed. However, the gradual building and exposition of the character is, for the most part, well-woven and produces a strong character whose strength is in their imperfection. With the recurrent images and symbolism of the vitruvian man, masks and costume, visual representations of the character’s questions around their gender identity are interwoven throughout the design and performance.

This symbolism is conveyed well by Naomi Faughnan’s set and costume designs, with a large image of the vitruvian man dominating the stage and the trappings of a dressing room surrounding it. Similarly, Eoin Byrne’s lighting design captures the liminal state the character inhabits, with the balance of light and dark providing a visual manifestation of the character’s evolution.

In an incisive exploration of identity in crisis, I am a Bird Now brings a multi-faceted character to the stage and lays bare the good, the bad, and the ugly of their humanity.

Running With Dinosaurs – Review

The New Theatre

19/04/17

 

dino

Image: Bill Woodland

 

Written by Nadine Flynn, Running With Dinosaurs is a moving  story of a family in crisis that takes an honest look at the effects of gang culture and financial difficulty. Jay is in his early twenties and is trying to find his way in the world and get a job, his sister Siobhan is traversing the ups and downs of her first relationship, and Sammy is seventeen and an aspiring musician who just wants to keep his head down. Add into the mix their grandfather Frank, who has recently moved to a nursing home, their mother who is slipping back into an alcohol addiction and Siobhan’s questionable choice of boyfriend, and you have the full complement of family drama.

Though the story is well constructed, entertaining and thought-provoking, the writing can at times be laboured, with certain lines seeming unnatural in their placement or phrasing.  This is particularly noticeable in the characters of Deco (Rory Dignam) and Frank (Tom Leavey), who are hesitant or stilted when delivering certain lines. However, despite this, the cast deliver good performances, with Daniel Monaghan standing out as particularly impressive in the role of Jay. Monaghan captured the full range of the character, blending sharp comic timing with a strong, affecting performance of the difficult situations Jay finds himself in,

Lee Wilson’s direction excellently draws out the layers in the story and makes the most of the stage space in portraying them. Particularly notable is the overlapping of scenes, with one scene beginning downstage as another is ending or silently being played out upstage. This is complimented by Bill Woodland’s lighting design which efficiently directs the focus of the audience to the main scene.

Running With Dinosaurs, though at some points a little stilted, is an engaging show that takes a raw look at what it is like to traverse the transition to adulthood in a disadvantaged area rife with gang culture.

 

Runs at The New Theatre until 29th April.

The Last Days of Cleopatra – Review

The New Theatre

22/3/17

Note: This is a review of a preview performance.

cleo

“Sure that’s what you’re up against.”

Telling the story of a family living through the death of their mother, Laoisa Sexton’s The Last Days of Cleopatra is heartbreaking and hopeful, bringing the audience into the lives of Jackey, Natalie, and their father, Harry, as they face the slow death of Jackey and Natalie’s mother, and  make their way through difficulty, difference and hurt

Directed by Alan King, this production tackles sensitive and difficult topics with a blend of humour and care. The combination of King’s direction and Sexton’s writing makes this a powerfully real engagement between characters and audience; the focus is clearly on the development of each character throughout.  The interlocking lives of the family members overlap and intersect, sometimes comfortably, sometimes in more challenging ways, but always with an insightful exploration of the context and consequences of various events and interactions. Through recurrent motifs in the dialogue, a sense of painful repetition is created, suggesting an almost inescapable cycle of difficulty for the family. However, this is finely developed and if one looks, one can find the gaps in the cycle, the chances for hope.

This is impressively performed by cast Gerard Adlum, Ger Carey, Ruaidhri Conroy and Laoisa Sexton, who all convey the depth and humanity of their characters with skill. Particularly note-worthy was Sexton’s performance as Natalie; when Natalie expressed an emotion, the audience had little choice but to join her in it. These strong performances are enhanced by Eamon Fox’s effective and evocative lighting design which provides impressive depth to a small stage.

The Last Days of Cleopatra is an excellent production that unflinchingly looks into the highs and lows of a struggling family, and in doing so brings the audience and characters on a journey that reflects the best and worst we can be and challenges any settling or stagnation of our outlook on life.

The Last Days of Cleopatra runs until April 1st at The New Theatre, Temple Bar.

Scene and Heard – May I Use The Bathroom Please/Mic Drop

May I Use the Bathroom Please?

May-I-Use-the-Bathroom-e1483986334522.jpg

Written and directed by Johnny Walsh, May I Use the Bathroom Please?  has many of the elements of a successful comedy, however, in 30 minutes it does not make the most of this potential. The escalation of tension and energy in the piece is uneven and rushed, with too many plot twists crammed in to a short space of time.  Set in a dingy bar in Dublin that suffers from a lack of customers (but which will not suffer the arrival of any newcomers), May I Use the Bathroom Please? is a farcical comedy about a St Patrick’s Day like no other. The performers all delivered energetic performances, but consistently stood outside their light and struggled at moments with timing of lines. Though the story, if developed further, has the potential to be a strong farce, there is a rushed, haphazard feeling about much of the writing and the execution of the piece.

Mic Drop

mic-e1484043789453.jpg

Perry Pardo, a successful and wealthy internet entrepreneur, takes to the stage to teach his audience the secrets of success in a digital age and to tell them how he made his fortune, having started in the streets (like Dre, he reminds us). Written by Gareth Stack and performed by Adam Tyrell,  Mic Drop is an entertaining piece of theatre, that shows two sides of fame, and questions the idea of success. Pardo made his fortune, but at what cost? As he snorts coke, checks his tinder on stage, almost breaks down repeatedly and loses himself in angry tangents, Pardo is a character who is self destructing in pursuit of success. Though the character holds great potential, it is sometimes unclear exactly what the production is commenting on; has Pardo been broken by a dog-eat-dog individualist society, is it just heartbreak to blame for his behaviour, or are both these things, and more, feeding in to each other? There are some cracks in the overall arc of the production, but it is a piece that, with some clarification of ideas, has great potential for development.

Scene and Heard – Owned/Syrius

Owned

owned-e1483986106579

Exploring the slave trade, from its pre-civil war American history to the current realities of the use of slavery in production of most of what we consume, from Nestle cereals to Gap hoodies, Syrius is a strong piece of theatre that challenges its audience. The work blends text with movement, with each ensemble member bringing a distinct but complementary style to the piece. The piece is, at times, somewhat disjointed, with the text coming across as a talk or lecture rather than a theatre piece, but it is still effective in conveying its message. In breaking the fourth wall in a number of ways, and encouraging the audience to look up www.slaveryfootprint.org, the performers push the audience to truly engage with the subject matter. Owned, directed by Ailish Leavy is an engaging and confident production that highlights an important global issue.

Syrius

syrius

Written and performed by Romana Testasecca, with direction by Karen Killeen, Syrius is a powerful piece of theatre exploring the experience of one woman who travelled from Syria to Portlaoise as a refugee.  The powerful movement in the work, choreographed by Stefanie Dufrense, portrays the many difficulties faced by the character, from her initial defiance against the military presence in Syria, to her journey to Ireland. Testasecca has an impressive presence on stage, drawing the audience into the story and creating a pulsing vein of hope throughout the piece.

Efficacy 84 – Review

Samuel Beckett Theatre, TCD

TCD Drama Department Devising Debut Festival

16.7.17

efficacy.jpg

Taking the 1984 Kerry Babies Case, in which the body of a baby was found on Cahirciveen beach, and another buried on a local farm, leading to an investigation that was fraught with issues around Garda conduct and veracity of information, as inspiration, Efficacy 84 is a heartbreaking piece of theatre that examines the society in which such an event could occur. This work, devised by Luke Casserly is an insightful exploration of a personal and public story.

Using effective distancing techniques, including microphones and the blurring between actors and characters, the piece recreates a sense of distance from the people involved, such as Joanne Hayes who was suspected of killing the children. As the piece develops the audience gradually realises the effect of this separation from the characters as people; the investigation clung to Joanne Hayes for so long despite scientific evidence to contradict suspicion against her because investigators saw her as an example rather than a person. She was not just Joanne Hayes; she was a woman caught between the Old and New Ireland, a woman who, for some people, embodied the change that was taking place in the country. It is easy to let injustices slip by when the victim is not recognised as a person, when a connection is not made with them. The framing of the piece, with Casserly joining the cast on stage and directly addressing the audience, combined with highly stylised performance, brings this to life and puts the audience in a position whereby they are engaged in the act of distancing.

The performances are consistently strong, with the actors finding a balance between levity and intensity under Casserly’s direction. Lisa Nally delivers an open, powerful performance as Joanne Hayes, and the entire cast operates as an impressively connected ensemble.

The design of the piece also plays a large part in the distancing discussed earlier, with Sorcha Flanagan’s costume design standing out as a particular example. By dressing the female actors in simple floral dresses and plain brogues and the only male actor, Simon Geaney in a classic shirt and jumper, Flanagan suggests a sense of timelessness of the story – this is based on a story from 1984, but it is just one example of the effects of a long-held mindset in Ireland. Benedict Esdale, as the pianist, is dressed in a luxurious velvet jacket, suggesting the conscious theatricality of the piece.

This combination of many small details makes Efficacy 84 a strong, well-rounded, affecting piece of theatre that confidently involves its audience in its development.

 

Danse, Morob – Review

Project Arts Centre

17/1/17

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

morob

The daughter of Morob is trying to find him. Upon learning that his body is missing from its grave, she sets out with her pack of dogs to find the Long Kesh ex-political prisoner.  However, it soon transpires that this magic-realist play is about much more than just the recovery of the corpse, it is about a woman coming to an understanding of the death of her father and finding Morob, the person rather than Morob, the corpse.

The piece opens with a strong physical segment, moving quickly from the slow pre-set movement around the set and building to an intense combat between performers in which words and movement clash with breathtaking results. However, this level of interplay between text and physicality is not sustained and such choreography is used less as the text takes over.  This detracts somewhat from the energy and power of the piece, as lengthy monologues lose themselves at points and go for more where less may have been more effective. The repeated motifs in the text, a technique that one would recognise from other Emergency Room works such as riverrrun, do not carry the text forward in the way one might expect, instead slowing the pacing and giving the text a static quality at times. Even though the lead role is powerfully performed by Olwen Fouéré, whose voice could command the attention of a theatre even if she was only reading a shopping list or telephone directory, the text seems to weigh the performance down.

Despite this, there were many interesting questions raised alongside the central father/daughter story. There were questions of connection and communication brought to the fore in interactions between the characters during the seated monologues, and in the sense of self interrogation in many of Fouéré’s pieces. This also leads to contemplation of questions of identity – to what extent is the lead character defined in relationship to Morob? How much does she define herself along that plane? This is developed as the narration moves from first person to second and third. The detachment of the use of the third person towards the end conveys a strong message about Fouéré’s character’s identity as the Daughter of Morob.

The daughter of Morob appears to be a prisoner herself (though why or to whom we cannot be sure), and this is conveyed effectively through Molly O’Cathain’s costumes which are created with an excellently balanced colour-palette that compliments and is complimented by Sinéad Wallace’s striking lighting design. Wallace’s design subtly suggests the opposition between the clear-cut lines of the place versus the hazy or murky internal experience of Fouéré’s character. José Miguel Jimenez and Luca Truffarelli’s AV elements create intense experiences of the search for Morob, but the fact that they are projected behind the characters and, along with Wallace’s lighting design, disrupts the sense of space and gives the audience the impression that they are experiencing the internal world of Fouéré’s character. One gets the impression that the daughter’s search for Morob may actually have taken place in one room, in one space.  It is, as mentioned before, not just a physical search, but journey to finding an understanding of Morob and his death.

Danse, Morob is a visually stunning production that is hindered by a stilted text.

Danse, Morob runs at Project Arts Centre until January 28th 2017.

 

trhlogo