Theatre: Guaranteed! / Lend Me A Tenor

Guaranteed-A4-image-NEW-LOW-RES-Apr-13-724x1024Guaranteed!

A play about how the banking crisis cost the Irish taxpayer €64 billion (an outright tragedy in other words!) will take to the stage at The Lime Tree Theatre this Sunday night (November 17).

Guaranteed! Was written by Colin Murphy and will be directed by Conall Morrison. Following the sold out and critically acclaimed run earlier this year, the play by Fishamble: The New Play Company is now back on tour by popular demand.

Anyone trying to sift through the massive amount of material on the subject might quickly become overwhelmed and disheartened but Mr Murphy aims to portray all the main events surrounding the crisis using actors and decipher it all using active audience engagement.

In his own words: “People want accountability, and they’re afraid they’re not going to get it. But what if accountability was something they could contribute to themselves? Picture a packed “town hall” meeting in a local venue – say the Lime Tree Theatre. Fed up waiting for a public banking inquiry, a group of locals has decided to hold one themselves.”

“Wait!” someone shouts. “Let’s stage it! With a group of actors. Maybe it’ll make more sense if we can see it happening before us. We can start at the beginning and make scene out of all the important moments. Maybe then it’ll make sense.”

“In Guaranteed!, the play I have written about the bank guarantee, we’ve tried to short-cut this approach. The play is based on my investigation of the banking crisis and aims to tell that story as clearly and concisely as possible.”

The first two acts display key events in the timeline and “like any good tragedy, we know what’s going to happen. The drama lies in seeing the characters trying to escape or ignore that fate, even as their actions bring it closer”.

In the third act, a small panel comes on stage to discuss and debate with the audience. It will be chaired by Dr Stephen Kinsella, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick; Dr Donal Donovan, former Deputy Director at the IMF and Adjunct Professor at UL; Dr Niamh Hourigan, Senior Lecturer and Head of Graduate Studies in Sociology at University College Cork and Donal O’Donovan, Business Reporter with the Irish Independent.

As Mr Murphy added: “This is a key part of this “citizens’ inquiry”. In the play, the actors took the place of witnesses, telling us what happened. Now the audience takes the place of the jury. And the panel take the place of the barristers, helping the audience sift through the evidence.”

“It won’t get us back any of the €64 billion. But it may just help people understand how that decision was made. (It may, surprisingly, make people laugh along the way.) And that may provoke them to lean in, rather than lean out – to help make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Lend Me A Tenor

Flyer_cropped_mediumThe Lime Tree is also showing the College Players Theatre Company production of Lend Me A Tenor by Ken Ludwig nightly until Saturday (November 16). It is directed by Joan McGarry and starsDave Griffin, Padhraic Hastings, Brian McNamara, Nigel Dugdale, Jean McGlynn, Sinead O’Sullivan, Beena Day and Rebecca Murphy.

The plot is: “The world famous tenor, Tito “Il Stupendo” Morelli, is to appear for one night only as Otello at the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. The star arrives late and, through a hilarious series of mishaps, he passes out and is believed dead. The Company’s assistant Max dons the Otello costume and fools the audience into thinking he’s Il Stupendo, but Morelli comes to and gets into his other costume ready to perform. Now two Otellos are running around in costume and two women are running around in lingerie, each thinking she is with Il Stupendo. This madcap, screwball comedy is guaranteed to leave audiences teary-eyed with laughter.”

For more information on both productions, see www.limetreetheatre.ie.

Unfringed Reviews: Bandit/The Wheelchair on my Face

Fishamble-The New Play Company is one of the most innovative collectives working in Ireland today and its ‘Show in a Bag’ initiative has spawned some excellent work since its foundation.

‘Show in a Bag’ is a collaboration with the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Irish Theatre Institute and gives actors the support and mentorship to come up with their own tourable productions. These plays debut in Bewley’s Café Theatre during the Dublin Fringe. Fortunately, our own Limerick Unfringed Festival was on just after that festival for the first time this year. Unfringed showed two 2012 ‘Show in a Bag’ plays and one from 2011.

I had the pleasure of seeing two of these…two out of three ain’t bad! Hopefully, I’ll see PAYBACK! at some later date.

Bandit

The first was Bandit—on in the Lunchtime Theatre at the Savoy slot on October 18—by Brian O’Riordan. The play followed a runner (O’Riordan himself) in the Dublin Marathon who is ‘a bandit’ and so is not officially registered in the race. He’s running away from his mistakes and grief; running toward an unlikely goal—all of which of is revealed as he navigates the grueling circuit.

He was literally running on the spot throughout and played three other characters at various points—a fellow female runner, his little sister and a rival from youth athletics. The use of subtle mannerisms and gestures was key for these segments. He packed a lot of information/story into 50 minutes and rather appropriately, the pace was perfect!

I really enjoyed it. There was a nice momentum to the play, probably down to the physical acting, which carries the audience along steadily but builds towards the end. The plot believability was a little stretched i.e. our hero lives a life of debauchery for years, goes back training for a few months and is miraculously superfit or the the fact that he stole a few grand with no consequences. The character is flawed but O’Riordan imbued him with some charm and wry humour that made you hopeful for him.

The minimalist format of ‘Show in a Bag’ meant that lighting, sound and a few props were used to maximum effect i.e. he would do a slight turn and the lighting would change when he was doing flashbacks and the beeps from his watch counted down the miles. Bandit reminded me a lot of Fight Night (yet another Show in a Bag focused on boxing) so it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel. That said, O’Riordan’s production and performance deserves praise, as does the mentorship and direction by Bryan Burroughs. I thought Bandit was affecting and energetic—enough to leave a pleasant adrenaline buzz.

The Wheelchair on my Face

This play was devised and performed by actress/comedienne, Sonya Kelly. It was also on in the Savoy, this time in the evening slot on October 26. The play—which won a Fringe First award at the acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe—is a stand-up comedy style memoir of the writer’s “myopic childhood”.

She knows how to make an entrance—setting the scene to music, fumbling and bumbling around the stage to demonstrate what it’s like when a person can’t see properly. Then she continued recounting hilarious incidents from her home and school life including how everyone thought she just an affectionate child when she clambered up on their laps and put her face close to theirs and how her bad eyesight affected friendships and activities. She invented an elaborate fantasy world where ABBA lived in her wardrobe and these funny interludes with Swedish accents and the band’s music break up the stories nicely.

When she had her eye test at age seven, it was obvious to all that she needed heavy duty spectacles. She describes the test, the optometrist and the other patients in a very touching anecdote. Her joy at being able to see properly is short lived when the catcalls of “speccy fishy!” start and her angelic First Holy Communion appearance is under threat from her supersized glasses. Some of the material is sad but of course, there is a happy ending.

Director, Gina Moxley, gave Kelly free reign to create her childhood world. The whole show was beautifully structured and told. There was some audience interaction where she got someone to throw a prop ‘tennis ball’; the use of props in general was excellent, from the giant eye-test charts to the ABBA’s Greatest Hits record cover. Kelly’s confessional streak and good humour was endearing. The audience lapped it up.

I may be short-sighted but even I could see why this show is award-winning. It’s funny and warm—a genuine feel-good experience. It is currently touring so catch it if you can.