Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fringe festival fever

Fierce Notions
Fierce Notions
Kate Stanley Brennan
End Of
Owen Wingrave
Talk Real Fine
Everything Now

Katy Hayes

The Dublin Fringe Festival's varied programme plays in venues as formal and central as the main stage of the Abbey Theatre, in oddball spots like the Handball Alley in St Michan's Park on Dublin's Green Street, and in far-flung places like the Axis, Ballymun. With 81 productions across 34 venues, you are simply spoiled for choice. I've combed and distilled the programme and here are my top picks...

Show in an unusual venue: You normally go to The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin's Temple Bar to buy a book. Well, soon you can go there to see a show called End Of by Sugar Coat Theatre. It centres on people who work in a bookshop as they cope with difficult customers, poor pay and bad prospects. It promises levitating books and disappearing shelves. Sept 15 - 24

End Of

Opera: Grab your chance to see Owen Wingrave by Benjamin Britten in a production by Opera Collective Ireland. It's a contemporary opera with themes of war and pacifism, and this production features much fresh singing talent. It is directed by Tom Creed and conducted by Stephen Barlow. O'Reilly Theatre, Belvedere College, Sept 15 - 16

Owen Wingrave

Performance art: Amanda Coogan and Dublin Theatre of the Deaf explore Teresa Deevy's writing in Talk Real Fine, Just Like a Lady. Deevy, a successful Irish playwright from the 1930s who lost her hearing aged 19, is currently having a moment, with her work being revived in Dublin and New York. The Peacock Theatre, Sept 19 - 23

Talk Real Fine

Intriguing blurb: Ill-Advised Theatre Company presents musical theatre show Fierce Notions (main image) by writer/composer Fionn Foley. A country called Hibernia has been taken over by corrupt tyrant Austericus and slaves are being led into revolution by a cod merchant. Sounds fishy. The Black Box at Smock Alley, Sept 11 - 17

Ongoing Fringe Project: Entering its eighth year, Show in a Bag has become part of the Fringe establishment. Fishamble: The New Play Company facilitates this process of generating new work by actors and writers, and many have been big hits over the years. There are four shows this year, featuring some of Ireland's finest performers, including Pat Nolan, Kate Stanley Brennan (below, Liz Fitzgibbon and others. All at Bewley's Café Theatre, Sept 11 - 23. Check individual shows for individual dates.

Kate Stanley Brennan

Dance: Choreographer John Scott, for Irish Modern Dance Theatre, creates Everything Now, a work for an all-male ensemble. The dancers hail from Ireland, France, the USA and Angola. The choreography combines the formality and rigour of disciplined dance with elements of a 1960s happening. Described as "our final gesture before we're thrown off a cliff". Might be apocalyptic. Smock Alley Theatre, Sept 13 - 17

Everything Now

Political: Playwright Stacey Gregg has written two stories about two women faced with the challenges that pregnancy can present. Choices is part of B!RTH, a collection of international plays that investigate childbirth practices and cultures. With a referendum on the 8th Amendment now a prospect, this is a hot topic, and playwrights are always good at presenting complex issues in complicated ways. Project Arts Centre, Sept 16 - 17

Gothic tale of sisters digging up the past

Review: Beryl & Eejit, Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

By Katy Hayes

We are accustomed to a fringe theatre scene dominated by young people as they practise and develop their talent in a setting where there is freedom to explore and to fail.

Intrepid actor/writer Billie Traynor, who is a more senior member of the acting community, has seized this idea with both hands and developed a fringe arena of her own. Her latest play is a 60-minute Gothic yarn about a pair of old spinster sisters living together in spiteful enmity. Beryl (Helen Roche) is an agoraphobe who spends her time tending the garden. Her sister Eejit (Traynor) is a Mills & Boon romance novelist. They have received a letter from a solicitor explaining that their deceased mother had in fact made a will, and has left the house to her former gardener and lover, Miguel. The sisters are to be rendered homeless. But Miguel disappeared 10 years before, just as their mother was slipping into dementia. The two women set about figuring out the puzzle and the play develops the hallmarks of a whodunnit. Secrets are uncovered, and a more complex dynamic emerges.

Eamonn B Shanahan's direction lacks attention to detail. The use of offstage recordings is raggy, and simple things aren't right - such as a hammer dug up from the mucky ground looks like it's just been bought in Woodie's.

The performances are convincing, but there is also some loss of discipline.

But there is plenty of wisdom here. The sisters observe that if they were a pair of old men, there'd be any number of women fussing over them and bringing them cooked dinners. The best material covers the lifetime fallout from their parents' random cruelty. While not perfect, this work gives us a perspective rarely seen: an insight into the interior worlds of older women living together. Top marks for breaking new ground.


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