Review: Eggsistentialism, Belltable Arts Hub 9 September

eggsistentialism-e1468285941215Eggsistentialism, 9 September 2016 Venue: Belltable Arts Hub, Limerick. Written and performed by: Joanne Ryan. Directed by: Veronica Coburn

“To baby or not to baby?” That is the question posed in this brutally honest and exceptionally amusing autobiographical theatre piece.

While suffering from a terrible hangover on her 35th birthday, actress Joanne Ryan begins to ponder one of those big life decisions and her search for an answer leads her to fortune tellers and fertility clinics alike. She mines her experience of family, cross-examines friends, observes parenthood in action and does extensive research with the dedication of a PhD student. The result is equal parts theatre, stand up comedy and multimedia presentation.

The writing is sharp, imbued with personality and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Although having a child is an immensely personal decision, motherhood and its place in Ireland and the world get an airing too. At one stage, the audience gets a speedy account of some key moments in Irish legal, social and popular cultural history in the 20th century. Her life (and egg count) might be under the microscope but introducing political context encourages the audience to think and interrogate along with her. Are women defined according to whether they have children or not? Can you have a fulfilling life and legacy without offspring? Do children make your life hell through a canny combination of sleep deprivation and extra housework, not to mention disfiguring your nether regions? There is a balance between the serious and irreverent.

ahppnbooArt imitating life is to the fore here so the acting was very natural. Ryan is a natural comedienne with a line in self-deprecating delivery. I was in tears from laughter a lot. The actress detailing her results on online parenting quizzes and reading excerpts from dodgy 1980s parenting books are particular highlights. But her jocular stage presence is offset with scenes of real poignancy too. She very occasionally slips into lecture mode, bad egg puns and playing for laughs but those are rare and forgivable. She did well to compete with the continual scene stealing of her mother, Gloria, whose recorded voice and opinions play a great supporting role. Rob, her boyfriend, and other voices pepper the piece too.

The production design was outstanding. Hats off to Pauric Hackett (production manager, set & lighting design), Sinead Diskin (sound design) and Neil O’Driscoll (animation). The animations, using 3D projection, augmented the minimalistic set and made things visually interesting, from online news articles to timelines; the cartoons ensure the play isn’t a complete Vagina Monologue. The voice recordings and music are essential to the piece and again, provide variety to the show. Many aspects of the production are impressive. It was conceived first in Hatch LK (a Limerick theatre incubation project) before being developed further with UK outfit, Theatre Uncut, Fishamble’s New Play Clinic and went from page to stage under director, Veronica Coburn.

As a woman in my early thirties, you could say I’m bang on target audience but judging by the positive reaction of the audience comprised of both men and women of all ages, I wasn’t the only one for whom it resonated. Next stop for the play is the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival (12-17 September) and Smock Alley Theatre and I would heartily recommend going to see it.

It’s difficult to stand up alone and bare your real-life hopes and fears to an audience, especially on such a private and simultaneously public topic. The play is confessional, engaging, thought-provoking and damn funny. Joanne Ryan has given birth to a real bundle of joy in Eggsistentialism.

More information on the play here.BT logo

PS: It was lovely to see a nearly full house at the Belltable again! It’s been a turbulent few years for the venue and now it’s back on track with its autumn/winter programme. For more information, click here.

Crowdfunding campaigns: Language Unbecoming a Lady & Narcan

I posted recently about two local crowdfunding campaigns and there are two more that you may be interested in too—both with a connection to the Big Apple. One campaign is for Limerick Theatre Company, Bottom Dog, and the other is for a film project by a Limerick-born filmmaker, Narcan.

Language Unbecoming a Lady

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 20.27.30Bottom Dog show, Langauge Unbecoming a Lady—written and perforned by Myles Breen—has been invited to the prestigious Origin’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival in Manhattan this September.

In Myles’ own words: “As Limerick’s first and only production at the festival in its seven years, we join a host of international productions in New York City for a two week run at the Cell Theatre, and get to represent you, our city, and our country in the Big Apple. This is not only this play’s international premiere, but the first Bottom Dog Theatre production to be staged outside Ireland! We are incredibly excited at the prospect, and so launch our first crowd funding campaign to make it a reality.”

“I wrote and performed this play for the first time in 2009 as part of Limerick’s annual Pride festival. Directed by my friend and colleague Liam O’Brien…our small show played for just four nights at the offsite Belltable Space in the city. Completely sold out and consecutive standing ovations later, we were overwhelmed by the response from local audiences. And so began a love affair with ‘The Divine Diana’ that has taken our show across the country to 19 venues, with over 55 performances to audiences of over 5000 people. We’ve toured from Cork to Donegal, Galway to Dublin and everywhere in between”.

Reviews were very positive: “Unadorned, vulnerable and comically self- critical, Breen is a shining and believable presence” – The Irish Times; “Fabulously written, wonderfully acted, tells an extremely important story, and is an undoubted success” – Irish Theatre Magazine; “Breen’s writing is sharp, colourful, aphoristic…it’s emotional honesty is compelling” – Irish Examiner.

“It has always been a dream of ours to tour this work abroad, and in the light of the historic YES vote for Marriage Equality, it seems like the right time to celebrate where we now are, but also remember where we came from. To tell my story and the story of countless Irish gay men and women, through the medium of theatre I love so much at Origin’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival, is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for. In over 30 years in the business I’ve never performed my own writing outside Ireland – and now’s my chance!”

The tour is being supported by Culture Ireland who will cover flights and accommodation in New York for the three BD members who will travel but there are lots of other expenses from venue hire to Visas which must be covered.

Rewards include: a voicemail from Myles in character, a custom written Limerick by the director tickets to the gala fundraiser (see details below) and even a one hour swing show by Rat Pack start, Liam O’Brien. Corporate sponsors are also welcomed.

To support this, click here.

Also, there is a Gala Fundraising Night in the Lime Tree Theatre on 27 August where there will be a performance of the play along with a drinks reception and entry to the cabaret at Dolan’s Warehouse after the play. Tickets are €50 and can be purchased on www.limetreetheatre.ie.

Narcan

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 20.23.34Narcan is short film being made in New York at present and was inspired by writer/director Peter McNamara’s time living and working in New York City.

“While working behind a bar Peter would hear a wealth of stories from migrant Irishmen but one set of stories in particular stood out from the rest, An Irish paramedic working the streets of New York who would regale Peter with stories of being on the job and everything gritty detail that it entailed. Fascinated by what he heard Peter began to write during quiet moments while working in the bar.”

Narcan tells the story of Sean Ryan an Irish paramedic working the unsympathetic streets of New York City, every day he struggles to manage a fractured personal life, with his only son refusing to speak to him and the void between himself and his wife Sinead growing bigger with every passing day. The death and darkness of the job begins to creep inside Sean’s head clouding his judgement. It is during the course of one particular 12 hour shift that decisions with irrevocable consequences are made; Sean must call upon every ounce of his stringent resolve to try discover balance.”

The crew has managed to organise equipment and locations etc but need help to get the film finished to a high standard so it reach its full potential i.e. sound mixing, editing, music rights and more. Once the movie has finished all pre and post production, the monies raised will be used for festival submissions in both the US and Ireland.

Peter is a writer/director with multiple nominations to his name, born in Limerick, in 1981; Peter grew up in a working class household and began working construction at a young age having left school early. In 2013 after a life changing experience he decided to quit his job and return to third level education to study film-production. Well-known Limerick actor, Peter Halpin—also a producer of Narcan—is starring in the film along with several other talented cast members.

Rewards include your name in the film credits, scripts, souvenir pins, limited edition posters and more.

To support this, click here.

 

Kate O’Brien House begins a new chapter

KOB house watchI’m sad to announce the demise of a regular (okay, irregular but still present) item on the blog—Kate O’Brien House Watch.

The need for progress reports is over because, in a hugely positive development, people are living there now so it’d be creepy to carry on. Not that I ever used binoculars or anything! It’s actually hard not to notice Boru House on Mulgrave Street because it’s quite distinctive.

21519001_1The imposing childhood home of celebrated Limerick writer, Kate O’Brien, has had quite the journey over its life to date. Built in 1880, it’s a stunning piece of architecture—a huge, detached, two storey, red-brick Victorian house with lots of period features (see more pics of it in better condition here).

I don’t live far from there and I’ve spent nearly two decades walking past it so I couldn’t help but see a gradual deterioration in its condition over time. It was put up for sale and I assumed that no-one was living in it full time anymore.

KOB house-best Like many vacant houses, it became a target for vandalism, illegal dumping and maybe even squatting and other anti-social behaviour. It was damaged by a fire (or fires) and I really thought it would be razed to the ground some night. I did a post in 2011 showing it at an all time low.

For years, it has been the subject of attention from local politicians, people involved in the arts scene and media. Limerick Civic Trust appealed for it to be preserved and possibly turned into a museum about the author. A relative of the former owners (a conservation architect) even weighed in, offering to investigate options for its preservation and use. There were a lot of suggestions that it should have a cultural or civic use. See archived articles/features about the house/author here.

KOB House-newBut unfortunately, nothing much happened until it was sold in 2012 for around €80,000-85,000 to a private buyer. From then on, the outward appearance of the building started to change and improve. There were tradesmen about the place working. The fading red of the gates and decorative metal railings was painted over with a deep blue. Glass appeared in the windows again. Things were looking up.

Then, when blinds and furniture appeared it was obvious that people were living there, which was another step forward after so many years sitting empty. For all the suggestions put forward, it seems it is destined to be someone’s home again.

IMG_0434IMG_0436In fact, the house is split into apartments. I randomly came across a listing for the two bedroom ground floor flat on the property website, Daft.ie. I’ve included a few screenshots so you get the gist of what the interior is like. It looks like a very sympathetic restoration.

 

IMG_0435It looks like many of the original features of the house have been maintained but some aspects have been modernised i.e. you’d rather that the all important bathroom and kitchen facilities wouldn’t be Victorian-inspired!

Anyways, it’s great to see Boru House restored. Any tenants are lucky to be living in a house with such a rich past. Kate O’Brien was born there in 1897 and no doubt, had experiences/memories that were put to good use in her stories and perhaps even cultivated her writing skills as a young woman there. Hopefully, this important piece of Limerick history will now be preserved for generations to come. Now, much like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, my watch is over.

Crowd-funding campaigns: Elemental Festival and Limerick Craft Hub

Two very worthy Limerick artistic ventures are running crowd-funding campaigns at the moment—Elemental Arts & Culture Festival and Limerick Craft Hub. I’m sure they’d both be bowled over with any support you could give them and all the information is below. Good luck to both in achieving their funding aims.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 20.32.29The volunteer-led Elemental Arts & Culture Festival has been running since 2012 and brings a diverse mix of “the arts in all their guises” over a weekend in September. Events include disciplines but not limited to: visual art, street theatre, music, crafts, forgotten skills, youth theatre, comedy, print, acrobatics, film and photography. This year’s proposed programme will be no different and events will include a sign-artists event ‘Love Letters from Limerick’, film screenings including the Oscar nominated Song of the Sea, theatre show Charolais and much more.

The aim is €2,000 and all funds collected on this campaign will go directly to the programme to pay artists, venues, technicians, equipment hire, accommodation, transport, printing costs and insurance. The festival doesn’t receive Arts Council funding. Elemental won Best Programme at the National Festival Awards (AOIFE) and was shortlisted for Best Website and Best Merchandise as well as being shortlisted for the National Green Awards. Their mission statement also includes using Elemental as a platform for supporting charities and the local community too. Past collaborations include: The Blue Box, Special Olympics, The Children’s Ark, the Ger McDonnell Memorial Fund, Limerick’s Buzzing and Fairtrade Limerick.

It’s a festival with a great can-do, ‘if you build it, they will come’ feel and “created by people with a passion for Limerick with the purpose of animating the city through the arts”. Some of the rewards include tickets to events, books, exclusive merchandise featuring the art of Jacob Stack and even some yummy gelato.

I’ve made my contribution so I’m really looking forward to the weekend. The deadline is just four days away so please consider investing in this event HERE!

www.elementalfestival.com

PS: Here’s a lovely video promoting Elemental…

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 21.13.08A not for profit organisation of 50 local craftspeople who support and promote crafts handmade in Limerick, Limerick Craft Hub was set up last year.

It is a legacy project of Limerick City of Culture 2014 and the collective “walked into an empty building last July and together we transformed it into the bright, busy space that you see today. Our exclusive high calibre craft outlet has a gallery space at the rear. We also have three fully operational craft studios, which are open to the public”.

The hub has a thriving Community Craft Corner where people come and knit every Monday and Friday morning for charities and for fun and it runs craft workshops on a regular basis.

Limerick Craft Hub wants to upscale and improve the craft shop, gallery and studio spaces.

In their own words: “We have secured a grant from LEO but need to match it with our own funds to actually receive the grant. This is where you guys come in, we need your help to raise those funds! The money raised will go towards a bigger kiln, a new coffee machine, a more dependable and faster till system,  and laptops for our marketing team. We want to be able to offer you more workshops, events, public rentable kiln space, a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a coffee during community crafting and a greater overall experience when you walk in through our doors.”

Rewards for contributions include cups of delicious Pónaire coffee and a selection of the wares made and sold here including honey, felt crafts, lip balm, ceramics, jewellery and lamps. The target is €14,000 and there are 19 days left in the campaign. To support this crafty endeavour, click HERE!

www.limerickcrafthub.ie

PS: Here’s a fun video outlining the craft hub and its campaign…

Giant video projection, LANDLOCKED, to open tomorrow (Dec 12) until Jan 3

A002_C004_0609K1A large-scale outdoor projection of a series of documentary video portraits, LANDLOCKED, is being launched tomorrow (Friday December 12) at 5.30pm in the Thomas Street Community Gardens.

The work by video artist Christina Gangos will run until January 3 and will feature 10 people “who form the fabric of Limerick” projected on a large city wall on Thomas Street in Limerick City centre.

It was shot by the artist when she was living in Limerick and all the participants stand in silence. Participants were asked “to contemplate life-changing events for 10 minutes while they were filmed. Their thoughts are kept private, yet the camera documents the physical process, the slight movements and gentle motions of a body in thought”.

The people who took part in the recording range in age from eight years old to 50 (at the time of filming).

The project aims to create “a space for silence and stillness above the busy Christmas city streets”.

The giant video projections will be 20m x 11.25m and will be visible on the wall above the Thomas Street Community Gardens during the hours of darkness. The optimum time to view this work is from 5.30pm-7am.

Commenting on the installation of this work, the artist Christina Gangos, said she was “very excited to have the opportunity to project this work in a large-scale outdoor location”.

“So often people and their thoughts are invisible to us, in LANDLOCKED I wanted to create a space for us to commune with others, without shame, social coding or language,” she added.

Ms Gangos is an independent documentary filmmaker, who lived in Limerick city for six years and is currently based in Athens, Greece. She studied journalism and history at the American College of Greece and then went on to do a Masters in Documentary by Practice at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her films have been shown at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Center Pompidou in Paris, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Gate Theater London, IFI Dublin and various major festivals.

“Her films aim to capture everyday moments and processes, inundated with the ability to disclose reality to the patient viewer. Stripping layer by layer of social representation and décor by elongating time to its normal length, her works in film are documents of bare living.”

Originally created with support and funding from the Arts Council, the exhibition and installation of LANDLOCKED in this prominent outdoor city location is is made possible by the support of Limerick City of Culture 2014. The support of Tony Clarke from City Centre Car Park was also much appreciated.

For more information, see www.landlocked-ireland.com.