Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

Feb 11 2009

Back In Da Day

Published by under Blog,Music,Theatre,Theatre Review

Okay, so I was never much of a fan of school. In the earlier days, I was a hardworking nerd who got a hard time. In my latter schooldays I was far less interested in my studies and far more interested in ‘chasing skirt’. But there was certainly one side of school that I loved – the shows. Whether it was the talent shows, the musicals or the Christmas cabarets, I loved it.

Again, in the early days I lacked any confidence so would never even consider trying out for parts in the school’s or MYTh (Musical Youth Theatre) Productions’ latest show. I was happy to go along to the matinées and see My Fair Lady, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar performed by my classmates and be in awe at their talent. It was a thrill to hear the tunes and watch these people I knew so well become different characters on stage. It was captivating.

When I moved schools in 5th year, my life changed completely. I quickly found friends and a confidence to put myself forward for some of the shows. One of my proudest moments was being chosen to host the Christmas Concerts and not only that – I was in three of the acts that were performing. I sang a song I wrote with a friend of mine, I was in a comedy sketch and I supported the wonderful Sarah Gostrangely in her rendition of Rise and Shine (I believe there is a video of this floating around though I have yet to see it). They were the greatest times of my school life.

So, to see that my newfound brother Sean is performing in a school musical was an absolute joy. Last weekend, Lottie and I made out way down to Clare to see Back to the 80’s, a new musical based on some of the best and worst songs from the 80’s – (incidentally, Darragh Doyle was recently in a production in Kilkenny and it’s worth having a look at his post here). As school productions go it was both spectacular and very long. The stamina, talent and confidence these kids have is breathtaking.


One of the stars of the show is recent blogging convert, Dermot. He played the role of the older Corey, a narrator of sorts – the role which Darragh took on also. Some great dancing, impressive singing and outrageous clothing made this show a treat to watch.


Back to the 80's


Back to the 80'sBack to the 80's

Back to the 80's

Back to the 80's

Back to the 80's

Back to the 80's

Back to the 80's

Back to the 80's

Back to the 80's


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Oct 29 2008

Fred Reilly – Depopulation

Published by under Blog,Theatre

Another advantage of having a theatre and gallery on our doorstep is in having access to some excellent exhibitions to attend. Photographer Fred Reilly has been invited to exhibit his work, Depopulation, in the BrightLife Gallery above Greystones Theatre. I was fortunate to be able to attend the opening on  October 16th.


Fred Reilly's DepopulationDepopulation documents the effect of BSE on the lives of an Irish farming family. Up to May 2004, BSE cases reached 1,397 in total. The panic and culling destroyed the livelihoods of so many farmers and families across Ireland and the UK. Reilly’s work attempts to portray their sense of loss by examining the immediate aftermath of the disease – the empty barns and unused farms. The work is positioned within the genre of contemporary documentary photography. Though much of the work is haunting, particularly in Reilly’s use of the long exposure to create ghostlike images, much of the work lacks a punch without the accompanying story. Perhaps this is true of a lot of photography, but I feel that Reilly’s work though visually impressive failed to hit his desired note. As with all art, this is of course open to debate.


For a stimulating exploration of a time that caused so much heartache to so many in this country, I would urge you to check out this exhibition. It runs until the 31st of November in the BrightLife Gallery.

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Oct 10 2008

The Songs That Go Like This

Phantom of the OperaI‘ve mentioned once or twice (or three times or four times) before that I like musicals. I’m a huge fan and am already looking forward to New York in January when we will get to see Wicked and Avenue Q on Broadway. So, I was very excited to hear that my local theatre in Greystones (just 32 seconds walk from my apartment) was putting on a night of music from Broadway and the West End.

Music of the Night, featuring some of the best songs from the biggest shows, was performed by Paul McGowan, Ben Morris, Aisling Sullivan, Niall Morris and Róisín Sullivan. Each of them brought something different to the table, whether it be Niall’s quirky tenor or Róisín’s sweet and flawless vocals. In the packed theatre, all the patrons both young and old, had a great time.


The first half of Act One was nice. That’s as far as I can go – it was some nice singing of some nice perennials. It opened with a selection of old style Hollywood classics such as Oh What a Beautiful Morning, The Street Where You Live and Over the Rainbow. Then it changed pace a bit with the crowd-pleasing Grease numbers, Hopelessly Devoted and You’re the One That I Want, along with Any Dream Will Do from Joseph. But it was Ben Morris’s rendition of Gethsemane that really got the evening started for me. He was truly fantastic. Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my all time favourite musicals and Gethsemane is in the running for my favourite song from a musical. I have heard countless different versions of it over the years, some had me transfixed (particularly when it last played in the Point) and some had me reaching for the sick bucket, but Morris nailed it. It was the perfect combination of great singing and a fine acting performance. That marked the start of a spellbinding run of songs.

I Know Him So Well from Chess was beautiful, the Sullivan sisters’ voices complimenting each other perfectly, and the three songs from Les Mis, On My Own, Bring Him Home and One Day More, brought the first act to a triumphant close. One Day More sounded like there was an entire chorus on stage rather than just the five singers. Wonderful.


A light refreshment later (the Guinness in the Theatre is of good stock :)) and we were back for some excellent Phantom numbers, followed by a song a song that was new to me – Princess from A Man of No Importance about a girl from Roscommon destined for the lights of the big city. It was a great surprise and I look forward to hearing more from that musical.

It was a shame that they did only one song from Wicked, For Good, because the voices were great for the roles and I was shocked but thrilled to hear them do a fantastically hammed up The Song That Goes Like This from Spamalot and then an Avenue Q song (a musical known for its puppets), Purpose.

The only shadow on the evening, for me at least, was the finale. It’s understandable that they would do a couple of tracks from Mamma Mia! but it is a musical that I really don’t like. Still, a pleasantly silly encore of Any Dream Will Do left me leaving with a smile on my face.


Overall, it was a fun night. Though not groundbreaking, there were a few moments of perfection throughout. I look forward to their return around Christmas and I hope to drag a few more people along with me next time.


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Oct 02 2008

The Case Of The Frightened Lady

Published by under Theatre,Theatre Review

The Case of the Frightened LadyI haven’t had much of an online life lately – the offline world has been preoccupying my time. One of my favourite real world activities is going to the theatre and on Tuesday night, the Bruiser Theatre Company staged a production of The Case of the Frightened Lady in Greystones Theatre.

They describe it as a classic ‘who-dunnit’ for all ages, but it is so much more than that.

It is not a straight ‘who-dunnit’. In 1932 the acclaimed thriller writer, Edgar Wallace, receives a call from his publisher demanding the finished draft of his newest novel. The problem: he hasn’t written it yet. Throughout the night, he, his wife, his secretary and staff brainstorm and act out his entire new book devising plot, character and climax on the fly. Playing out each character to perfection were a cast of five – who each pretended to be a number of characters in the novel. As the evening progressed so too did the novel’s plot, but also the subplot of the tensions between Wallace, his wife and his secretary.

This play was hilarious, from start to finish. It didn’t miss a beat, probably because it was choreographed to perfection. Indeed the choreography was the most important part of the play. Each scene change, each gesture, each brief interaction was timed to the second. The mania and hysterics of the play didn’t let up right to the end and the audience truly felt as though it had been taken on a journey throughout.

Ultimately, the pay off – the reveal of who actually dunnit – is a little flat and there is no true drama building up to it. The subplot of the love triangle isn’t fleshed out to a finish either, which does disappoint. So, as a dramatic piece, the play does fall short, but as an out and out comedy it is wonderful. I laughed constantly and the comedy techniques employed were brilliant. Everything from the subtle glances, to the farcical prat falls, from the witty lines to the low brow ‘knob’ jokes, The Case of the Frightened Lady delivered beautifully.

Well done to the cast and all who were involved in putting this play on stage. I’ll will keep an eye out for future Bruiser Theatre productions.

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Sep 22 2008

A Night To Remember John Brogan

John Brogan at the OlympiaLast night was a special event and I am lucky to have been in attendance. John Brogan, stage manager of the Olympia Theatre for over 30 years, celebrated his retirement with an amazing night of music.

Over the years, whether loved or hated by the thousands of acts he told “don’t put that there”, it’s clear that he left an indelible impression on everyone he met, helping bring their performances to life on stage. Many of those performers were delighted to return to the stage last night in his honour.


PantiI‘ll admit to being somewhat concerned when the larger than life drag queen, Panti, catwalked onto the stage to MC the proceedings, but I needn’t have worried. Her cynical charm and no bullshit commentary provided the balance the otherwise congratulatory evening required. Flirting with a collection of non responsive performers, she was very much in control of the night.


The first act brought on was the Coronas, an unusual but very welcome set. Unusual because they have not had a full performance at the Olympia yet and welcome because I’m a fan and my appetite is now whetted for their night in Greystones Theatre on October 5th. I found myself wondering if they set the tone for the night. I doubted it – and what came next proved it.


The Coronas


Twink and John BroganPerhaps the only thing more camp than Panti came on next – Twink. Thankfully, she didn’t sing. However, mad as the woman may be, she does give good theatre and her very heartfelt and genuine reminiscence of John Brogan was a note perfectly struck. Funny and warm, she was the ideal person to introduce the man of the hour, John Brogan, to a standing ovation.

Dustin the TurkeyUnfortunately, John was not given the opportunity to regale us with ancient anecdotes, as he was interrupted by a turkey. No, Pat Kenny did not show up, Dustin did. Slight but fun banter swiftly gave way for the return of Panti to introduce one of the beauties of the evening.


Francis Black has an Irish angel’s voice and she used it to its fullest performing two of her classics, Christy Hennessy’s All the Lies That You Told Me and the heartbreaking Wall of Tears. Perhaps it did bring a mushy element to the proceedings, but I loved it. Truly beautiful.


Brian KennedyNext we saw Brian Kennedy, AKA Mr. Cringe, so much so that I welcomed the distraction of the loud skangers behind me being kicked out of the theatre. He performed You Raise Me Up that brought tears to a lot fo people’s eyes. I was in tears because he seemed to go on forever. He pranced round the stage worse than Daniel O’Donnell. He was Eoin McLove without the humour. The man has a voice, but why he needs to girate his hips while using it is beyond me.


Declan O’Rourke may have been a little off form singing Gallileo, but his words about Brogan came from the heart. Brief and poignant, he simply said, “I‘m going to miss him“.


The Dubliners


This was the first time the remaining members of The Dubliners have come together for a public performance since the passing of Ronnie Drew. Indeed, yesterday was Ronnie’s month’s mind mass. It brought a sombre but respectful note to the evening Barney from The Dublinersand John Sheahan‘s poem to Ronnie made up for in pure emotion what it maybe lacked in eloquence.

The tiny leprechan on a banjo, Bernard ‘Barney‘ McKenna too was a treat. His rendition of The Dubliners classic I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me was one of the highlights of the evening. Overall the four members of The Dubliners (including just two original members) were wondeful, warm, funny and enthusiastic. Having whipped the crowd up, it was a shame the evening took a break after their set.


Though Tom Dunne looked surprisingly uncomfortable up on stage, Something Happens got the whole of the Olympia going again. Loud, abrasive and very tight, the eighties/early nineties Irish pop act proved they still have it. The now classic Parachute sounded fresher than ever.


Something Happens


One surprise of the evening was how fantastic Mary Coughlin was. Looking great and sounding rough and ready, but better than ever she teased us with I Wanna Be Seduced, before bowling me over with a fabulous I Would Rather Go Blind. Ireland’s original cabaret belle is back.


Mary Coughlin

One wonders if Declan O’Rourke, Barney McKenna and Sharon Shannon are drinking from the same water supply. Shannon’s diminutive frame came out on stage and we all got our binoculars ready. Her set was more an exercise in showing the band’s prowess than her own. The Penguin was flawless and though not as well received by the audience as some of the Dubliner’s songs, it was, for me, proof that Traditional Irish music isn’t going anywhere.


Camille O'SulivanThe ever wonderful, always spectacular, painfully sexy Camille O’Sullivan performed just three tracks, but stole the show as far as I’m concerned. In These Shoes, her perennial signature tune, introduced the band and set the tone. Here was the reason John Brogan did this job for as long as he did – to see truly great performers make the fullest use of his stage, to witness spectacles and to fall in love with the show.

For John, she dedicated Nick Cave’s The Ship Song:



Brian Whitehead, current manager of the Olympia and just one of the many John has worked with over almost 40 years, brought along Maureen Grant, the bar manager, to present John with a photograph of all the current staff and a Waterford Crystal commemorative bowl. A man of few words, John Brogan was clearly moved as he thanked everyone for making his time in the Olympia great. He begins his speech with “I‘d like to tell Brian Whitehead, I’m not leaving.” Laughter all around, but there was a slight hint of apprehension – afterall, he’s threatened retirement before.


John Brogan, Brian Whitehead, Maureen Grant


The Fleadh Cowboys, a band who were regulars in the early days of Midnight at the Olympia, finished the night. Their final song, Bob Dylan’s May You Stay Forever Young, was a nice sentiment, but judging by the respect and reverence everyone holds for this great man, I think John Brogan will forever be remembered, fondly and respectfully, as the old man of the Olympia. Have a good and long retirement, John.



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Aug 18 2008

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

Published by under Blog,Theatre,Theatre Review

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are DeadFriday night brought an unexpected treasure. Anthony and I went along to see the ‘amateur’ production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in the Teacher’s Club on Parnell Square. Staged by CYEBO (I’m sworn to secrecy as to the meaning of the acronym), this was anything but amateur. Performances were solid, direction flawless and the production values were impeccable in a venue that could hold a maximum of 65 people (although I would imagine it to be pushing it to go above 40).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is Tom Stoppard‘s ultimate play within a play. Originally staged by an amateur company in Scotland in 1966, it tells the existential tale of two minor players in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as they are ‘born’ and exist in the wings of the bard’s classic tragedy.

The pair appear at the beginning of the play and are engaged in a betting game of heads or tails. When we join them they have reached over 70 consecutive ‘heads’, a record. Immediately we hear musings on destiny, chance and the meaning of life.

Rosencrantz: Heads.
Guildenstern: A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability.
Rosencrantz: Heads.

Rosencrantz & GuildensternAs the play slowly emerges, it is comedy, farce, drama, enlightened wit and tragedy rolled into one perfect script. We learn that neither character can recall where they are nor how they got there. In fact, they are even confused as to which of them is Rosencrantz and which is Guildenstern, alluding to their minor status in Shakespeare’s play. Occasionally they come close to discovering the truth behind their existence, that, to paraphrase Hamlet, their entire world is a stage and they are merely players, reciting their lines and then waiting in the ether for their next curtain call:

Guildenstern: All your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque. A man standing in his saddle in the half-lit half-alive dawn banged on the shutters and called two names. He was just a hat and the cloak levitating in the grey plume of his own breath, but when he called we came. That much is certain – we came.

They question their life and purpose constantly and come close to understanding that they are just bit parts while others around them are the leads:

Guildenstern: We only know what we’re told, and that’s little enough. And for all we know it isn’t even true.

But more often that not, this moment of revelation is lost in the confusion of their ramblings.

They are not completely alone throughout the play, however. They also share the ether with the Players, other bit-parters in Hamlet, and occasionally we meet Hamlet, Ophelia, Polonius, Gertrude and Claudius. In a wonderful twist Hamlet, arguably the literary world’s most famous anti-hero, plays a very small part in this play and is mostly used just to slowly bring Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their inevitable fate.

The Players

I am a Hamlet-head – I love the play and the  many different versions of it I have seen. I first read Stoppard’s play about 10 years ago and have read it a few times since, but I have been unable to see a production of it until now. Perhaps that gives CYEBO an unfair advantage, or perhaps it makes their job harder as I have built it up so much in my own imagination. Whatever the expectations, mine were overwhelmed by the production.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern and trhe Players

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead relies to a large extent on the abilities of the two actors playing the title roles. They are on-stage for the entire play, and for much of the play, they are alone on-stage. In the hands of two unaccomplished actors, the long and winding monologues and dialogues would be difficult to follow and understand. In the hands of two lesser actors, the comic interplay between the two characters might be lost. In the hands of two amateurs, the final poetic moments might come as a relief rather than the thought provoking genius moment that it truly is. Thankfully, David Fleming as Rosencrantz and Finbarr Doyle as Guildenstern are no amateurs. The chemistry between the two actors to produce brilliantly funny moments following existential drama following debate about determinism versus free will following farcical games of questions – these two owned the stage. There was no discomfort, no nerves. On the contrary, Finbarr‘s frenetic Guildenstern was confident and gifted with his speech, while David showed a mastery of the performance, comfortable using every inch of the small stage to its fullest. They should both be very proud of their fine performances.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

The supporting cast, with the exception of The Player, mainly provided light relief (in the same way that our two heroes provided the relief in Hamlet) and were excellent particularly when ‘rehearsing’ the play within a play, The Murder of Gonzago. The Player himself, played by Brian Quinn, who provides some of the answers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are searching for, is superb. His control over his troupe is both hilarious and frightening in equal measure and his throwaway explanation of life as a player and as a character is surprisingly poignant:

We’re actors – we’re the opposite of people!

Aoife O’Donohue directed this play. I was lucky enough to chat and have a drink (or three) with Aoife after the show and she informed me that this is the first CYEBO production, her first production after DramSoc in UCD. It is very clear from the fine performances extracted and the excellent production values that she has a very strong future ahead. She is hoping to reprise the show at some point soon, so I will be looking out for it and everyone else should too.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern and the Player

Note: Photos courtesy of Aoife O’Donohue of CYEBO

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