‘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/

‘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.