‘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.

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.

Brussels, Belgium 18-23.11.2015

Preface: I decided to take the time to visit some friends in Brussels in November. The flights are generally quite cheap so I only booked it about two weeks in advance. By the time my departure rolled around I had a lot of people saying I probably should go because of the Paris bombing, 13th of November. I consulted the friends I was staying and decided to go along anyway.

This was my second time visiting Brussels, and possibly my first ever where I left Ireland-

and the weather was worse where I arrived!

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I arrived Thursday evening and was met by my friend at le Berlaymont after getting the bus from the airport. Their first words to me were “We’re on level four alert at the moment.”
“Level four of how many?”
“Of four!”
After which we scurried back to the apartment in the rain and caught up that evening. I amused myself for the morning of Friday while both my friends worked. Luckily Brussels has an abundance of lovely architecture and trains.

That evening we popped briefly into Théâtre Royal de Toone, a bar and puppetry theatre/museum, which my friend is very fond of. When I visited previously I had missed the chance to see a show here. We couldn’t go this evening but decided we would at the weekend.

The bar also has cats which is a huge bonus in my books.

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Brussels was well on its way to becoming festival at the point. They were in the midst of decorating their tree in la Grand Place, soldiers in tow. Sadly I was a week early and missed their winter market.

We took a casual stroll around Saturday and I purchased all the chocolate and Speculose biscuits I could conceivably fit in my bag. The metro was out of service but this didn’t affect us. We started listening in to RTÉ as friends started sending us messages asking were we okay. We decided to visit Toone to see ‘Le Docteur Jekyll et Mister Hyde’. We got fruit beer before seating ourselves in the auditorium which is filled with marionettes from previous plays. My French isn’t great but the story was pretty clear.

We decided to get pizza on the way back to the apartment and encountered an armoured vehicle.

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That evening I had begun to get messages asking me how we were getting on with curfews and being made stay at home. We had only heard that a few people had stayed at home, and the only thing we had been warned about was going to places with large crowds (like matches or concerts).

On Sunday many things were closed, as is the fashion in much of mainland Europe. We did visit a church though, and then found a café and a comic book shop which were open (Brussels has a lot of great comics).

Brussels is a lovely place to visit, especially in summer. Though were it not to see friends, it would not be high on my list of places to revisit as I do find it quite bland.

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Monday I returned to Ireland and reassured many people on my return that I hadn’t been forced to stay indoors, and any indoorsing had been voluntary and involved games of Star Realms.

 

‘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.