‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’ on tour

I arrived back in Ireland on the 5th of September after nearly seven weeks to find out ‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’, the Taibdhhearc’s Galway International Arts Festival play from the summer, would be touring in November. I wouldn’t be operating the subtitles as the tour was of the Gaeltachtaí; Gaoth Dobhair, Ráth Cairn and Coirce Dhuibhne. Instead I was operating Qlab (Audiovisual), as our original operator had a new job.

I couldn’t be at the rehearsals leading up to the remount in Galway because the second #ABCirk exchange was taking place that week. Luckily the experience of operating subtitles put me in a good position to operate Qlab.

We had two shows in the Taibhdhearc, 8th and 9th. We packed up the van to travel after the show on the night. It took until 1am to de-rig everything, decide what to pack, and pack the other rentals away.

10th; We left at 9am to travel to Gaoth Dobhair, Dún na nGall. Amharclann Gaoth Dobhair was nice and had some staff on hand to help us. We did our get-in (literally getting all the stuff) – and then we got kicked out shortly after 7pm! They were showing a film. We decided to have family dinner in The Ivy. Everyone we spoke to had Irish and it was a fine evening! We stayed in Teaċ Campbell – a very nice B&B.

Our Lighting Designer and Stage Manager bring Alleen Babbejaan to dinner in The Ivy, Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Dún na nGall.

11th; Focus (directing and focussing lights), Q to Q (where the technicians go from each cue to the next to make sure everything looks and sounds right) then we had a few hours free before the show at 8pm. The technicians attended the local pub, which also proved to have very nice food (nice one, Gaoth Dobhair).  And show at 8pm! It all went well even though it was strange not to be in an enclosed control room.

A view of the beach in Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegall.

12th; The mostly free day. Found the beach! Show at 8pm. Which had some strange added heater noises! But went well otherwise. Then the get-out (like the get-in, but reverse), met some of the crew in Tí Sheáin-Óig again, and bed.

13th; Start the process all over again! Out of Gaoth Dobhair and on to Ráth Cairn at 9am. We arrived to find ourselves in a community Hall – which still had a set on stage!

Image of set-builder on-stage crying at the thought of having to take down a set before putting up our own touring theatre set, with ladder.

Set builder despairs at the thought of removing one set before even beginning our.

But our inventive touring set-builder deconstructed and reconstructed it to give us a great backdrop and masking (wings, for actors to hide behind before entering the stage). Here we weren’t kicked out until 8pm, which gave us enough time to rewire our 16Amp plugs to 15Amp plugs. Though we struggled to find food it Athboy, where we were staying in The Lawrence.

Arrived back after breakfast to find the bed made and Alleen Babbejaan stretched out in luxury.

14th; Focus, Q to Q and the show was well-attended in the evening! We enjoyed some refreshments in the bar next door, and got to hear some of the local musicians play.

15th; Found little to do in Athboy for the day other than stroll, nap and send postcards. Show again at 8pm and then the get-out.

16th; All aboard the bus again to leave for our last stop, Coirce Dhuibhne in Ciarraí. This was another lovely theatre space! We had some problems with sound because one of our cables (jack to XLR) got damaged, so we had to edit the file on Qlab to travel through one channel and rely on the one other jack to XLR we had. We stayed in Óstán Coirce Dhuibhne, which was beautifully located amongst the hills by the sea. I would have gone walking but the boots I had were letting in water sadly.

17th; Once got everything ready for the last time, and the show was well-attended in the evening.

A view from the control area we set up because the control room itself was too small for two of us.

18th; Our last night! Our touring lighting technician had a show in Dublin and our back-up joined us for the last show. We gathered everything up for the last time, checklist and all. Once again we had to rewire the 15Amp plugs we borrowed, and headed back to the hotel. Not only were we celebrating the last show and the end of the tour, but also the 70th birthday of one of our actors!

19th; A quiet bus ride back to Galway, rewiring 16Amp plugs on to cables, stopping in petrol stations, and we landed back to our home theatre for shortly after 5pm after completing the Taibhdhearc’s first national tour in over ten years.

‘Lights, Circus, Action’- the Galway Community Circus Cabaret show – 21.05.2014

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Walking into the main hall of St Joseph’s Community Centre would never be considered boring. Being perpetually rigged with aerial equipment and the weekly timetable nearly completely monopolized by the circus at this point, you’ll usually end up walking into a circus class at any time of day.

But last Wednesday was an especially good time for people wandering into the hall. The walls were decorated on opposite sides with circus’ tent walls, all seats were lined up ready-and-waiting, and a beautiful bake sale arranged.

Being best known for it’s eclectic collection of aerialists, the show unsurprisingly had a lot of trapeze acts – static, singles, doubles and triple – as well as silk and hoop. But if that wasn’t top of your wishlist to see, have no fear, because the manipulators are here! With plate spinning, hula hoop, gymnastics, juggling, and of course the grand acrobatic finale, there was something to satiate all tastes.

The unfortunate thing about circus shows is that it can be hard to fully appreciate how difficult it is to replicate what you’re seeing. Thankfully your circus-experienced reviewer is here to tell you that this show in fact had mad skills.

When you watch a circus performer, the piece you see is merely a minute glimpse into the months and years of training it’s taken to get to this point. The strength, flexibility, coordination and creativity are never gained in few days. But that’s the most impressive thing about it; they make it look easy.

I didn’t feel the time go by, as I intently watched jugglers manipulate objects or raised my gaze to the aerialists, before we came to the interval. Take your pick of sweet treats before you sit to watch the second act. Once again the time passes by without my noticing before we come to the finale. Death-defying heights were achieved in this acrobatic quintet, as two people crouch down, one person standing on either’s back, and the fifth person balanced on top. They even had a quintessential example of a simple story-line, four policemen chasing down a robber, which tied the act together.

If any mistakes were made they were revealed only by a performer’s own evident annoyance with themselves; something I trust to improve with time. Overall the evening was very enjoyable and the show was impressive, to say the least. If you can find any evening half as entertaining for just €5, I’ll eat my unicycle (no mean feat – trust me on that)!

‘Terminus’

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Mark O’Rowe, writer of Terminus, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970. He grew up in the working-class-suburb Tallaght. This environment, as well as his avid watching of exceptionally violent films as a teen is what fuels the violence in his work, he states. O’Rowe is described in The Literary Encyclopedia as being someone who challenges “[Irish] drama’s traditional concern with rural life by focusing on urban stories, usually characterised by high-octane language and a surreal and violent sensibility”.

O’Rowe began writing because of both a desire and a need. Having nothing more than secondary school education, he had limited job options. He decided finally to write something thinking it would either go well, or he’d never try again.

O’Rowe wrote his first play, The Aspidistra Code, at age 26 in 1995, and has been steadily churning out plays and screenplays since. The Aspidistra Code never quite came to fruition as he hoped but he summoned the ability to carry on. Arguably his most popular play, ‘Howie the Rookie’, premiered in Bush Theatre, London, in 1999. This play may be considered as setting the bar for O’Rowe’s ever popular monologue-style.

Terminus, which premiered in The Abbey, 2007, is also written in a similar monologue style. Though it does have three very distinct characters in it and not just one like Howie the Rookie; (A) – ex-schoolteacher and mother, (B) – her estranged daughter who lives alone, and (C) – a psychotic singing serial killer in the form of a man. The narrative which is told from each character’s point of view aims to regale us with the events of a single night.

As you’re already thinking this play sounds absurd, it should be apparent that nothing but an abstract set would be appropriate. This becomes more obvious as the play moves from Samaritans’ office, to apartment, to bar, to alley, tram, arm of a crane, car chase, petrol station… and so on. It’s because of this variety in the setting that it’s so important for the actors, who are really storytellers, to be able to paint these pictures for us.

Thereisbear! Theatre performed Terminus in the Town Hall Theatre Studio, Galway, 26th of February until the 1st of March.

The flat stage area was marked by three wooden palettes, with bright back lamps behind. A long white sheet stretched out behind the performers which was lit pink or blue, by six Fresnel lamps with coloured gels. Finally, there were three LED spotlights behind them capable of a wide colour range. Though simple enough, it was quite effective in creating an atmosphere to match the events being regaled at particular moments. As it wasn’t in anyway cumbersome it seemed to match the simplicity of the overall portrayal of the story.

The actor-storytellers were all equally faced with the task of giving us an energetic account of their night. They did this very well with great use of their bodies, hand gestures, facial expressions, and the tone of their voice.

The pace and rhythm of the play was nothing short of delightful. I feel any experienced poet or spoken word artist would have appreciated that aspect of it. Some of the lines were so melodic that the jarring words describing a brutal murder almost seemed less devastating. There’s no fault in the description of even the most risqué events “nipples poking, evoking so prevailing a craving, I’m quaking”.

My only grievance really was the way it ended. Not wanting to give it away of course, I simply think it should have ended as it began, with (A), rather than (C). I left the studio the  with a vague sense of unease after the end. Though perhaps that was the intended effect.

Overall, Terminus makes for a very unique theatre experience, one I’m glad I had, and certainly one that will remain with me for quite some time.

‘Dig’

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Walking into Seamus O’Rourke’s Dig in the Town Hall Theatre the evening of the 19th of February, one couldn’t be blamed for having visions of A Skull in Connemara. Performed by Big Guerilla Productions, it was performed on the same stage as A Skull in Connemara was about one year previously; with it’s story based around death, oh-so-rural-Ireland references and a lazy young-lad, they did seem rather similar. Afraid it wouldn’t match up to these accidentendal and unfair standards, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The base plot is quickly revealed to be two neighbours digging a grave for their neighbour Smoky. Many strands of story begin to unravel themselves. Not often something is “edge of the seat stuff”, but this would be an accurate statement – literally. Not wanting to give too much away, because it is a fine example of high-standard production in many ways, I will say that the end of the first act has some rather affecting effects.

O’Rourke’s play has latched onto the ever-popular pressures of Irish society, and the seemingly massive gaping rift between generations; fathers’ whose sole interest lies in football and drinking, and their sons who have a more globalised view of life which encompasses options spanning more than just the length of the bar and the football field combined. It also engages the shocking rise in rates of suicide among young men.

The set verged on questionably detailed. It exhibited a steep incline with one open grave, a dividing wall, some barren trees, a stone entrance and some unsightly rubbish. I could perfectly imagine it being a particular graveyard that I knew personally.

Great use was made of lighting and sound effects. The passing of time during the day was very well depicted by the lights changing to yellow – orange – red. Most unusually I thought, the play was occasionally punctuated with sound effects suggesting birds, cars and even a tractor. But this technique was never overused.

As one of few production where I was so engaged I all but forgot I was a stage this story was unfolding. It was the best thing I’ve seen this year in the Town Hall Theatre and one of my favourite productions I’ve ever attended.

I’ll leave the link to their tour right here:
http://www.seamusorourke.com/dig-by-seamus-orourke/

‘Word Becomes Flesh’ by the Living Word Project

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First performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph in 2003, Word Becomes Flesh took the Main Stage in the Redfern Arts Centre, Keene State College, New Hampshire early October 2013. The performance combines elements of dance, hip-hop, live music and spoken-word poetry. It gives an insight into the world of pregnancy from the point of view of a young black man.

The play was devised from the Joseph’s own experiences; getting his girlfriend pregnant, his absent father, and simply existing as a black man in America. Redone with five performers, they deliver the majority of the show by performing letters to the unborn son. It conveys true anger and frustration at the historical atrocities and myriad of injustices stacked against the black male before he is even born. Joseph evokes in his audience the anger he feels at this, as well as the sad empathy he feels for his unborn son.

He is by no means overly proud. Looking at himself critically he also admits the flaws in his character, admitting to contemplating leaving, as his father did to him, and even his darkest thoughts involving the mother losing the child.

While the theme may seem over-specific to be appreciated by a wide audience, it tackles a number of issues particular to a wide range of people. They discuss in detail how the pregnancy came about, the relationships they have with the women involved, relationships with their own fathers, and the world they expect their sons to inherit. The play also touches on abortion, domestic violence, slavery, infidelity and also the father-daughter relationship. Common fears are related such as “Will I make a good parent? How can I change to lead a better example? Will my child make the same mistakes I did?”

At 80-minutes the performance is an impressive show of strength and stamina on the actor-dancer-poets’ parts, but is never boring or tedious. The almost empty stage lent itself greatly to the atmospheres and ideas being conveyed. As only chairs are ever brought on, nothing detracted from the back lighting of the wall. Scenes were set mostly by the live-music playing at the time, which ran through a range of genres to suitably set each scene.

The performance, funny but mature, was very well received by everyone in attendance. It could heard cropping up in casual discussion on campus for days following, which think says a lot.

‘Happy Days’

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‘Happy Days’ gives us a brief insight into the life of Winnie, a middle-aged woman. She is [at minimum] buried up to her waist in earth and almost single-handedly entertains us and herself for the course of the entire play. Her husband Willie who we do not see properly during the first act, appears only briefly in full view during the second act. Winnie regales us with tales she is reminded of by things in her handbag.

During the second act though she is buried up to her neck and can no longer access her bag. She still continues talking, in hope that Willie is still listening for she never did “learn to talk alone”.

To take on Beckett play is no mean feat. With their intricate directions that are insistantly followed it may be tedious and difficult for a company, in this case the Godot Company, London, to give the play its own stamp. For enduring that alone a certain level of respect must be held. For the woman, too, who talks almost non-stop for the duration, I must say I was impressed.

Unfortunately, as soon as I entered the auditorium I was somewhat disappointed. The pile of earth Winnie is buried in looked more like a crater on the stage and reminded me of some class of moon-scape. I didn’t think it was true to the first lines of the play stating “Expanse of scorched grass rising centre to low mound.” As it was the only piece of scenery on stage, I felt like more attention could have been paid to its construction.

All the other bells and whistles appeared to be present. It seemed truer to the script in terms of lights and sound which accompanied the start and end of the acts. A loud whoosh runs through the auditorium as the lights go up. Winnie’s bell to get up, and go to sleep, rings at an uncomfortably loud level (as written).

Holding none of the intensity of ‘Endgame’, or the mystery of ‘Waiting for Godot’ I think this production must appeal more to avid Beckett readers than the usual theatre-goer.

‘A Tender Thing’

So, last Saturday I traveled up to Dublin to see ‘A Tender Thing’ in the Project Arts Centre. It was a matinée and the light atmosphere entering the theatre did not in the least bit prepare me for what I would watch.

After walking into the already crowded auditorium we took our seats in the second row and sat in awe momentarily gazing at the spotless set, decorated in shades of Royal Blue, perfectly depicting a tastefully laid-out bedroom with a door leading out on my left, and a bathroom to my right. A double bed, chair, dressing table and wardrobe sat on stage.

Before it started my theatre companions filled me in on it a bit; written by Ben Power, it’s based on Romeo and Juliet, as if they hadn’t died at the end. It has two rather famous actors; Owen Roe playing Romeo and Olwen Fouéré playing Juliet.

I should mention, I have never cried at a play before (and I do not cry very often as is). Nothing could have prepared me for the way I  would sob uncontrollably during that play.

Romeo comes on stage: “Give me the light”. The lights come up for the first time of many in a visually stunning way.

The play opens with explaining, if a bit cryptically, what is to come. Juliet is bound to die, by her own [husband’s] hand, after falling fatally ill. It starts rightly with them proclaiming love for each other. Early on Juliet reveals she’s quite sick. After this scene a few sniffs and subtle wiping of eyes could be observed. Later on when Juliet fails to slide off the bed and suffers incontinence, Romeo finds her on the floor crying and shouting “I sicken love!”. I completely broke down and would have left, if I hadn’t had about a dozen people blocking my exit.

I was glad I stayed though. It had some very striking moments you rarely see on stage, which brought to it a very real and raw beauty. I was also slightly wowed by the mechanics of the stage, including the slide away bed and secret hidden entrances.

After a wondrous dance piece at the end I left the auditorium a feeling a bit shook but also uplifted.