Dublin Circus Festival: 8-10 April, 2016

I attended the Dublin Circus Festival for the first time this year. In the weeks leading up to it they had a lot of announcements about events and Gala acts which had me really excited, but I also found out they had a limited capacity of 150 in their Gala show venue which damped my enthusiasm a bit.

I arrived late on Friday after getting the 7.15pm bus after work (the last bus), and caught just the end of the fire show. It was held in the courtyard in Trinity which was quite an impressive setting.

On Saturday myself and my companion arrived around 11am. The hall was very centrally located, though there were no sign-posts or any indication of what was going on inside. There were a great number of people I knew in attendance, so I spent the first while going around the hall chatting and catching up. People were juggling, playing games, and practicing for the first Irish Kendama Open.

However, mild tragedy struck soon after! A Galway juggler fell and we suspected they had broken their arm. Myself, another Galway juggler and two Dublin jugglers accompanied them to the nearest public hospital. I had some games with me, and the Dublin juggler who had led us left some more games with us. So we sat in the Accident and Emergency department playing games while we waited for news.

Not long after, I got a call from another convention attendee asking which hospital we were in, as they had also injured themselves, and wanted to come to the same hospital as us to play games while they waited. So it was an exceptionally merry time in the hospital for us all!

At 4:30pm we got a call telling us the hall was closing at 5pm, which was a bit disappointing. We’d been told it closed at 6pm, which already left the people who couldn’t make the Gala with nothing to do, and now we had a bit of a scramble to get back and get bags and equipment from it.

At 5pm half our injured party was sorted, with the other half nearly ready to go, so myself and my companion headed off to procure food. After this I made the twenty minute journey over to the Lir where the Gala was being held. I was very luckily one of the last five people to get a seat despite being there an hour and a quarter before show-time!

The show was quite good. The Lir is a beautiful venue, which has its own in-house staff, and great rigging and lighting set-ups. I enjoyed the show, which had a mix of local talent, Irish over from abroad, and visiting performers. Though my highlight of the weekend was actually the renegade.

We arrived at Doyle’s pub an hour early so had to wait before going downstairs. The stage area was also only about 6’3” in height, and the whole area was very cramped. But despite this it was my favourite Irish renegade I’ve ever been to (second only to the Irish renegade nights at EJC Bruneck 2015). The acts were all great, many of which even incorporated the height and size of the stage.

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After the renegade itself was a small dance party which went on until about 3am. Most people left shortly before 4am to catch the NiteLink buses.

My companion and I awoke about midday on Sunday and rushed to have breakfast and get the bus in so as not to miss the games. By some wonderful fluke we arrived the minute they were beginning.

The games had a nice mix of props, skilled and non-skilled games. I particularly appreciated the Simon-Says poi, as there is rarely a game for poi spinners. I proudly won the Rock-Paper-Scissors Worm Championship.

The all closed about 4pm, and many of us then convened in Merrion Square for more juggling, but mostly sitting, playing games and chatting. At about 5:30pm many people started to wander off shouting out what convention they’d see everyone next at.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 9; Berlin, Germany (and Dublin, Ireland)

Friday the 14th

Before getting to Berlin I had to survive the 12-hour train journey from Budapest, Hungary. Like most long journeys, the first half was fine. The next quarter was okay. The last three hours were excruciating. I reckon I managed it only thanks to a very interesting individual who entertained me with stories of their life for about two hours. They had gotten on about half way through my now journey. They were from China, studied in Ireland, married a German person (who still lived in Germany), but worked in Czech Republic.

I arrived into Berlin at almost 11pm (after having been delayed for some reason) and I’d never been so happy to find myself in Berlin Hauptbahnhopf. I quickly made my way to the Hackendahl bar where my friend Aaron, who I was to stay with, was. They were finished serving food but let me order something anyway when they heard I’d been travelling all day!

My time in Berlin was very relaxed. I’d been there quite a few times before so I didn’t feel the need to do anything touristy or see anything. I spent a lot of time meeting up with people, juggling, and going to English comedy clubs (of which there are many in Berlin).

Saturday the 15th
The bank card dilemma:
I’d had a problem with my bank card in Budapest, Hungary, which AIB had been unable to resolve for me. I got no further with this issue in Berlin. I explained the situation [anew each time I rang AIB] and the eventually told me they could send me “emergency cash” which meant my own money from my account and sending it by Western Union. GREAT!
Except it would take them 48 hours to do that. So I essentially gave up and had to contact a family member and asked them to send money via Western Union (which took about an hour in real time).

Sunday the 16th
I contacted some of the jugglers I knew in Berlin, some of which I’d only met at the European Juggling Convention a week before. One of them suggested Victoria Park to me, which was conveniently near the Katakomben, a popular juggler-training space. I headed over, did a bit of juggling, then went onto the Katakomben where I met two Irish jugglers. I knew one of them, who was also visiting Berlin and staying with the other. The juggler I didn’t know invited me to their house for dinner!

Monday 17th
I met another friend, Fabian, in Ostkreuz. Another juggler, who had been doing his EVS at my youth circus club earlier that year! We then met up with Tom, who was currently doing his EVS in Shake, Cabuwazi, another youth circus. We wandered around and eventually ended up by the water in Treptower Park.

 

We then went to find the bar where Tom was doing some stand-up comedy that night! We were early so we went to another bar beforehand, where I ordered my first bier (it had to be Berliner Kindl). It turned out that another juggler we knew also did English stand-up in Berlin. The bar the stand-up night was meant to happen in turned out to be delayed opening, so most of the comedy night took place outside! It was a nice night out so everyone still stayed to watch.

There’s a lot of jugglers in Berlin, in case that wasn’t already apparent. So it shouldn’t be surprising when I say there was some juggling happening in the house when I returned that evening (the house of four people had three jugglers, previously four).

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Tuesday, the 18th
I went with Aaron and another one of the people in the house to a new juggling hall nearby.

Wednesday the 19th.
Aaron and I went to check out a Magic out a new Magic Museum in Berlin. We were both super excited, but it turned out to be more about mysticism and spirituality than magic. So we were a bit disappointed. But there was a magician at the end which made up for much of it. We then went to a disappointing hummus bar.

We passed by Tacheles, an art squat that had closed since I’d last visited, which made me pretty sad.

Thursday the 20th
I packed up my stuff and travelled from Aaron&co’s house to Tom’s house. All the other EVS people had left so he was living on his own now. I managed to take the longest route possible to his house by deciding to go all by tram, and  ended up waiting almost an hour on a very particular tram, when I could’ve made the journey much shorter by just taking the S-Bahn.

The last three days of my time in Berlin were juggling and seeing English stand-up comedy. On my final night I decided to go out with Aaron and Tom. We started at 8pm and continued until 5am when I had to return to Tom’s to collect my stuff and go to the airport. I had a very exciting time in the airport while I wasn’t fully sober and forgot to move my two pen-knives from my back-pack to my check-in luggage. I flew from first from Berlin to Düsseldorf.

I had a few hours to spend in Düsseldorf before returning to Dublin, Ireland. I spotted  Tesla car and picked up some biscuits for the people I was spending the night with in Dublin.

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I was sad to travel back and as we got closer to Ireland the clouds got steadily greyer.

Naturally it was raining in Dublin. And it took an hour and forty minutes for a bus, simply going from the airport to the city centre, to appear. However after a shower and a few hours to adjust to everyone speaking English again I travelled down the next day to Galway quite pleased.

‘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.

‘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.