Theatre highlights of the week

Tough choices: audiences get to elect their own prince in Pan Pan’s brilliant alternative take on ‘Hamlet’ at the Abbey; while Veronica Dyas, Bertolt Brecht and Maxim Gorky share a Mother in Dyas’s new production ‘My Son My Son’

 

The Rehearsal, Playing The Dane

Abbey Theatre, Dublin. May 23rd-26th, 7.30pm (Sat mat 2pm) abbeytheatre.ie

“A problem, you solve,” says Sister Gertrude in a Muriel Sparks’ novel; “a paradox, you live with.”

This capricious and rather illuminating intertextual reference is typical of Pan Pan’s award-winning riff on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, first staged in 2010, and now revived after touring the funkier reaches of the planet. That this observation comes from an onstage academic, Amanda Piesse, who gives a short lecture on the most observed tragedy while holding an immense Great Dane on a leash may count as another conundrum. Still, it’s perfectly worthy of both Pan Pan and Hamlet himself, both so overladen with intelligence, wit, earnestness and antic dispositions that it’s a wonder they ever get anything done.

For all its self-awareness, mad gags and sometimes impenetrable idiosyncrasies, The Rehearsal is one of the most faithful representations of Hamlet you could hope to find. Not because it puts the play on stage (heaven forfend!) but because it reflects Hamlet’s role on stage, in culture and in life. Here, the casting of the coveted part is determined by an audition and an audience vote, while “the play within the play” is the play, performed by school students. Director Gavin Quinn (also onstage) may seem deadpan, but his production can be incredibly moving, where rival and distinctive Hamlets, including the extraordinary Conor Madden, throw themselves into their roles. Something is mesmerising in the state of Denmark.

My Son My Son

Project Arts Centre, Dublin. May 23-26 7.45pm €10-€14 projectartscentre.com

It’s a truism that everybody has a mother, but in the case of My Son My Son, a new production from the writer, performer and theatre maker Veronica Dyas, it begins to seem like a pointed inheritance. Dyas’s play is based on Bertolt Brecht’s “learning play” The Mother, which in turn, was inspired by a Maxim Gorky novel of the same name. Some mothers do have ’em. In Brecht’s play, written against the rise of Hitler, and set during the Russian Revolution, the mother is Pelagea Vlassova, contending with death, illness, illiteracy and deprivation while resisting – with humour – the oppressions of capitalism. In Dyas’s play, set in Dublin’s Meath Street in the Liberties and performed by Lauren Larkin, Amy Conroy, Ericka Roe and Leah Moore, it becomes a piece of contemporary agit prop about class, performed with music. The show has always had an enduring appeal, from variation to variation, born from a simple edict: Listen to your Mother.

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