Pursued by a Bear »

  • We’re back – and we have the theatrical scars to prove it

    October 16, 2012 @ 5:29 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The arts blog has been on hiatus for the past few weeks, while dealing with the Absolut Fringe and, more recently, the Dublin Theatre Festival, over on the Festival Hub blog. We’re now wrapping the Hub up in its velvet curtains and carefully storing it for future use, but before we do, here’s one last look at the past few weeks’ activity.

    I finished my festival season with the DruidMurphy cycle – and what a way to end more than a month of productions. This was a superlative series of shows, with hardly a chink in its armour, and proved again that Druid and Tom Murphy are in a class of their own. (more…)

  • How was it for you? How to improve our theatre festivals

    October 26, 2011 @ 3:24 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    More celebrities! Comfier seats! Waiter service and free drinks!

    The Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival is looking for feedback to try and improve its offering for next year. It has posted a survey over here that you can fill out in about five minutes. The form is anonymous and one person will get a free dinner for their thoughts, so get clicking.

    The answers are of the tick-the-box variety, so we’d like to broaden the scope here. Let us know below what you would like to see improved and what positive elements you would like to see built on in both the Dublin Theatre Festival and the Absolut Fringe festival. Also, if there is anything about The Irish Times coverage, particularly on the Festival Hub, that you would like to see given a shot in the arm, do let us know.

    To kick things off, after the jump are a few of my own thoughts on what worked and what could be improved from the past month or so spent at the theatrical coal face. (more…)

  • Why puppets are scary

    October 3, 2009 @ 6:32 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Guest Post: A play set in Auschwtiz you say? Surely this will be some worthy work that we will all rub our chins, wring our hands and solemnly agree is an important work. But it’s with puppets? And with no script?

    Kamp has all the potential to be the longest hour of your life, but instead it is an ambitious and shockingly good show. Hotel Modern have built a scale version of Auschwitz, in which they manipulate hordes of tiny figures, sometimes as mass groups, often as individual models, shuffling about the stage, digging ceaselessly in the ground, or shoveling bodies into ovens. All of this is filmed using handheld cameras and projected on to a screen. This is horrifying and terrifingly effective stuff. Sitting in the pitch black of the Samuel Beckett Theater, I was afraid to breathe in sharply so thick was the atmosphere. Several years ago, I went to Auschwitz and one of the main impressions it left was the scale of the construction and the horrifying efficiency and precision with which it was built: row after row of perfectly aligned barbed-wire fences, shack after shack stretching as far as the horizon. With its thousands of tiny figurines, and low angled camera lines, Kamp recreates this to startlingly good effect.

    There is a chillingly effective soundtrack and I still haven’t worked out how they worked the sound effects. (One continuous soundtrack that they synched up the action to? Dozens of music cues operated off stage?) After the performance, the cast invited the audience down into their Auschwitz recreation to see it up close, but I didn’t take a wander on to the stage – I wanted this theatrical sleight of hand to remain something of a mystery. A deeply moving and visceral  hour that you feel in the pit of your stomach. By Laurence Mackin

  • Silver Stars

    October 2, 2009 @ 6:30 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Running off to a(nother) wedding, but had to write a quick post on another moving and powerful piece of theatre, Silver Stars. For a more eloquent review, click here. Suffice to say that this song-cycle, based on interviews with gay men who came of age in an intolerant society, is disarming for its honesty, and its faithfulness to the personal stories of those who contributed to the project. I’ve been bellowing out “I love you more than God!” at inappropriate junctures ever since – go see why.

  • Once And For All We’re Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen

    September 28, 2009 @ 10:05 am | by Fiona McCann

    If you’ve been sapped of all energy just reading its title, then the above play (can’t bring myself to retype) could have been the end of you altogether. Depending on your take, it was either an enervating if voyeuristic insight into what it is to be a 21st century teenager, or a draining reminder of the distance between you and them. (more…)

  • The Manganiyar Seduction

    September 25, 2009 @ 11:57 am | by Fiona McCann

    The Dublin Theatre Festival kicked off last night with 42 Indian musicians performing a spine-tingling spectacle that brought the audience to its feet. The stage was like an Advent calendar of curtained cubicles, each one opened and lit to reveal a singer or musician as they joined in the show. Strings, percussion, reed and voice were expertly layered in this highly choreographed concert, building to a crescendo that had even the most circumspect on the edge of their seats. The Manganiyars, a community of travelling Muslim musicians, traditionally sang before the kings of Rajasthan though on Dublin Theatre Festival opening night they performed instead for an audience that included many of the honorary royals of Irish arts. Those in attendance included writer Colm Toibin, Arts Council Chair Pat Moylan, Eugene Downes of Culture Ireland and all manner of actors, producers, directors and luvvies.   Kudos to Festival Director Loughlin Deegan for a risky but rewarding opening night gambit – bringing 42 Indian musicians to a Dublin stage is no small feat, but the result is a show that will lift an audience to new places and resound for some time to come. Go and be seduced.  For more information, click here.

  • Theatre festival

    October 13, 2008 @ 4:03 pm | by Fiona McCann

    It’s over for another year, and reviews are mixed, with everyone talking about Waves – “a aroduction that is genuinely doing something that has never been done before” according to this paper’s reviewer Patrick Lonergan – and Gatz, neither of which are shows on which I can offer an opinion.  The best thing I saw was the Abbey’s production of Happy Days with Fiona Shaw, while the most hotly-anticipated show for me, The Year of Magical Thing, left me little more than lukewarm. Anyone out there bowled over by Black Watch? Dazzled by Dodgems? As the festival recedes into memory, is there anything that will stick?

  • The Cripple of Inishmaan

    October 10, 2008 @ 11:25 am | by Fiona McCann

    Druid’s production of the Cripple of Inishmaan, currently running at the Olympia, is an off screen illustration of why playwright turned director Martin McDonagh was so hailed and hyped long before he moved to movies. This is a dark, grim and blackly comic staging of this 11-year-old play, set in the 1930s but with a self-awareness that resonates in the present. Aaron Monaghan plays the eponymous cripple with fitting dignity, while the rest of this stellar cast tread the line between dark and light with admirable skill. My only complaint related to sound levels, with some of the dialogue lost to my delicate (read damaged) ears. Whether this was down to the acoustics at the Olympia or poor amplification, it did detract from somewhat from an otherwise positive experience. Jokes are never funny when they’re repeated, and even less so for other theatre-goers. Anyone see it?

  • Standing ovations

    October 8, 2008 @ 11:33 am | by Fiona McCann

    This Theatre Festival, crowds seem fierce apt to leap to their feet after the final curtain in a manner that almost dilutes the power of the standing ovation. At the opening nights of Metamorphosis, The Year of Magical Thinking and Black Watch, only a smattering of curmudgeons (myself included) remained in their seats while the rest were so enraptured they were propelled out of theirs.

    Either I am impossible to please, temporarily paralysed, contary, or, and this is a longshot, I like to reserve a standing ovation for the kind of rare moments when you really are forced out of your seat in an enthusiasm or emotion inspired by the show you’ve just witnessed and not because the person in front of you is blocking your view. Statistically speaking, the latter would seem unlikely to occur three times in a row in any given week. Am I being churlish? Is the standing ovation the new opening night standard? If so, does anyone else find this an irritating trend?

  • Metamorphosis

    October 7, 2008 @ 11:42 am | by Fiona McCann

    “Being as good as Kafka is hard, and Farr and Gardarsson are certainly not up to it,” said Fintan O’Toole on Saturday of the Gísli Örn Gardarsson/David Farr production of Metamorphosis. “The performance may defy gravity, but it falls down when trying to attach Kafka’s allegory to something meaningful,” said Peter Crawley. Can the original work by Kafka on which the play is based ever be set aside in our cultural consciousness long enough to allow for this play to be judged on its own merits? Should it be?

    There is always a danger approaching a work that has been ‘adapted’ to a new form. When a beloved book gets the big screen treatment, readers are rarely enamoured of the results, while those who come to it without the literary precursor in mind are often much more forgiving.

    So what happened in the case of Metamorphosis? Much has been altered, as O’Toole pointed out, but isn’t it strangely fitting for a work with such a title? Or was the metamorphosis too much?  

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