Introducing a note of levity

On The Town Dark and intense was the general consensus as the audience emerged blinking into the light after the opening performance…

On The TownDark and intense was the general consensus as the audience emerged blinking into the light after the opening performance of Bedrock Theatre Company's biggest-ever show at the Project Arts Centre this week. But despite the sinister subject matter - the Bernard-Marie Koltès play, Roberto Zucco, is based on the true story of an Italian serial killer - there were moments of levity from the 11-strong cast to balance the black.

To the appropriate strains of Psycho Killerby Talking Heads, the full house spilled out of the theatre to join cast and crew for some opening-night celebrations. Kudos rained down on director Jimmy Fay for his interpretation of the Koltès work, which was getting its first outing on an Irish stage. Actor Megan Riordan, who appears in the upcoming Dublin Theatre Festival production of La Marea, paid tribute to his achievement.

"Jimmy's really good at taking things that you read and can't imagine and making them come alive on stage," she said.

Cian O'Brien, one of the play's producers, echoed her sentiments. "It's a really, really excellent play and Jimmy's done a fantastic job," he said.


O'Brien's parents, Mary Knox O'Brien and Ciaran O'Brien, were also present for the first night of their son's production.

Maureen Kennelly, artistic director of Mermaid Arts Centre, enjoyed what she called a "stunning" production.

"It's a real treat to see an Irish production on that scale," she said.

Actor and director Alan Stanford, city arts officer Jack Gilligan and actor and writer Claudia Carroll were also in attendance at the opening night. Carroll, whose latest novel, I Never Fancied Him Anyway, was also launched this week, said she was there to support her friend, Marion O'Dwyer, who plays Zucco's Mother and Madame.

For Aaron Monaghan, who gave a searing performance as the increasingly deranged Zucco, getting into the mind of a serial killer was no easy task.

"It requires a lot of energy, but at the same time it's always quite close to the surface," he said.

Jimmy Fay was proud of the production. "I've wanted to do it for a long, long time," he added.

Actor Antonia Campbell Hughes, who for the past two years has been working predominantly in British film and television, said the first night of a theatre show was a new and exhilarating experience for her.

"It's my first opening night, but the energy and everything was exciting," she said, adding that "it wasn't as terrifying as I thought".

Less terrifying for the actors, perhaps, but for the opening-night audience who bore witness to the emotional intensity of Roberto Zucco, it was another matter entirely.

Roberto Zucco, by Bernard-Marie Koltès, runs at Project Arts Centre, Dublin, until Sat, Sept 8

A view of the future through a 'Circle' Stage set for a sunny new season

Throw a group of 20 teenagers into any confined space and drama is likely to ensue. But if you add to the mix a play set in Georgia, a German playwright, a Hungarian director and the stage of a national theatre, then drama is guaranteed.

Fortunately, that's just what the National Association of Youth Drama has done with its latest production at the Peacock, where a 20-strong cast of 16- to 20-year-olds are performing in Frank McGuinness's version of Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

At the opening night this week, Orlaith McBride, director of the National Association of Youth Drama and producer of the play, said the experience the young actors would acquire in this professional production would be valuable both for themselves and for Irish theatre.

"It's a very solid foundation because they're going through a professional experience," she said.

Dave Kelly, whose own introduction to theatre was through a similar route, is assistant director. "My own background is with youth theatre, so I've kind of come full circle, if you'll excuse the pun!" he said.

Actor and playwright Gina Moxley attended the opening night with actor Eileen Walsh, who is currently in rehearsal for Roddy Doyle's version of The Playboy of the Western World, which will play in this year's Dublin Theatre Festival.

Critic Karen Fricker was also present at what was her last Irish theatre opening for a while. After 10 years in town, she's on her way to London to work as a lecturer.

"I'm so happy to be here at something that's so about the future of Irish theatre," she said.

Actor and playwright Jacinta Sheerin said her introduction to drama as a teenager was also through Dublin Youth Theatre.

"I'm 28 now and I never left, because I love drama and it gave me confidence," she recalls. Sheerin will be performing in a play she co-wrote, Waiting for Ikea, at the Dublin Fringe Festival this year.

City arts officer Jack Gilligan, Culture Ireland chief executive Eugene Downes and Dublin Fringe Festival director Wolfgang Hoffmann were also among the full house watching the future take to the stage.

"The National Youth Theatre is a great incubation for actors who will be names in the future," said Gilligan.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle closes tonight

Stage set for a sunny new season

Sunshine supporters may well be fickle in sporting terms but when it comes to matters theatrical, they're the real deal, ignoring some glorious weather to support the launch of the new season at the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork.

Doing the honours to launch the season at the elegant 628-seat Victorian theatre on McCurtain Street was veteran of the Cork stage Michael Twomey, who took time out from his busy schedule of rehearsals as director of Declan Hassett's turn-of-the-century drama, Survivors.

Twomey paid a warm tribute to Pat Talbot in his last season as artistic director and praised him for his quality programming which sees visiting productions of Glengarry Glen Rossby Keegan Theatre from Washington DC and Philadelphia Here I Comeby Second Age.

Twomey, who will also be taking the directorial reins on JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls, struck a poignant note when he paid tribute to two well-known figures on the Cork theatre scene who died in the past year, set designer Patrick Murray and choreographer David Gordon.

Among the many guests at the launch were Emelie Fitzgibbon of Graffiti Theatre Company, Donal Gallagher of Asylum Productions and actors Ronnie O'Shaughnessy and Linda Kent, who both star in Survivors.

Also enjoying the evening was novelist Gay Shortland, whose new play, Knock Three Times, is being staged by Meridian Theatre Company as part of a double bill at the Granary next week with journalist Liam Heylin's latest offering, Love, Peace and Robbery.

Also spotted at the launch was actress Julie Sharkey from Meridian and Bernie Holland and Brendan Casserly from the Everyman, as well as Catherine Mahon-Buckley, who is directing this year's panto at the Everyman, Jack and the Beanstalk, from a script by Kevin Power.

Also making it along to lend support was newly appointed Green Party Senator Dan Boyle and his wife, Bláithín Hurley and UCC Campus Radio broadcaster Don O'Mahony and his new bride, Claire Benner, just returned from their honeymoon.

Others spotted at the launch included Joe Kelly, fresh from his success in organising the Picnic in the Park at Fota, and music promoter Pat Conway, who was heading north to catch his brother Denis in Ouroboros's acclaimed production of Brian Friel's Making History.

The unsung who never rest

It was thespian central at the Gaiety's Circle Bar this week for the launch of Laurence Foster's Rising Without Trace: The Life and Times of an English Actor in Ireland. Actors old and new turned up to support one of their own, and to check for a mention in Foster's chronicle of Irish theatre over the past 40 years.

Foster, an Englishman who migrated to Ireland when most of the traffic was in the other direction and subsequently spent four decades in Irish theatre and radio drama, said the book's title was partly an ironic reference to his own career. "I've never been out of work for 40 years in theatre and radio, and yet nobody's ever heard of me!" he joked as friends and fans queued up to have their books signed.

Actors Karl O'Neill and Gerry O'Brien were among those there to support what O'Neill called "a great old stager". As he thumbed through the book, which Foster called "a chronicle of actors long gone and a collection of 40 years of theatre in Ireland", O'Brien joked: "'I'll be going through this book and asking why I'm not mentioned more!"

Actor Barry McGovern was convinced, however, that there was no scandal about himself to be found therein, "unless he knows things I don't". Actors Barbara, Jane and Catherine Brennan were accompanied by their mother, Daphne Cowell, also an actor, while writers Ivy Bannister and Godfrey Graham were also present. The book launch took place in the same week as the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the Radio Éireann Players, of which Foster was a long-time member.

Singer Sonny Knowles arrived to lend his support to Foster, his long-time colleague and friend, who has worked with greats such as Micheál Mac Liammoir, Spike Milligan and Maureen Potter over his lengthy career.

In a room full of actors, familiar faces abounded, including those of Daniel Reardon, Bill Golding, Barry Cassin and Des Nealon.

Actor Alan Stanford, who spoke at the launch, paid tribute to Rising Without Trace. "Tragically, the majority of us who at some point in our short existence manage to gain any degree of notoriety are forgotten all too soon. The sad fact is that so many names in this book are totally unknown by the new generation, names that used to put fear and dread in our very souls. What Lawrence has done in this magic book is to say 'you're not forgotten'."

Rising Without Trace: The Life and Times of an English Actor in Ireland is published by Ashfield Press, €20