Big Beautiful & Oldest Woman subjects for local theatre/opera this week

2014 is coming to an end and so is Limerick’s tenure as City of Culture but there is still some great work to come so do keep an eye on the local press and social media for details.

big_beautiful_woman_156x110Two such quality productions are on this week. First up, local theatre company, Magic Roundabout premiere their new play, Big Beautiful Woman, by Darren Maher.

It will run from tomorrow (Wednesday December 10) to Saturday December 13 at 8pm nightly at the Red Cross Hall on Cecil Street. This venue was the off-site setting for the now defunct Belltable Arts Centre when it was undergoing refurbishment and it’s a great space. I’m delighted it is now a new Theatre & Performance Hub for local practitioners to develop/stage work—a purpose it was mooted for way back in 2011 but has now thankfully fulfilled.

The blurb is as follows: “Under the real shadow of a gargantuan puppet, and the figurative shadow of a looming deadline, a ‘resting’ actor and a would-be author pitch a series of increasingly bizarre narratives at each other in an attempt to find the true and historical Limerick-based story that will wow an audience and propel them to the big time.”

“They are hampered in their labours by the attentions of distractingly beautiful French people, a series of embarrassing costume malfunctions, unexpected physical exhaustion and an inability to commit to any one true story that can sum up the city that they love.”

Tickets: Adults €15/Concession €12 and all Wednesday tickets are €10. Booking on 085-2085737 or magicroundabouttheatre@gmail.com.

This Friday and Saturday (December 12 and 13) The Lime Tree Theatre and Wide Open Opera will present The Oldest Woman in Limerick.

“As you casually pass an elderly woman in the street or on the bus, do you ever pause to consider the treasure trove of life experience that lies within? If her thoughts and memories could sing, what would they say? If her reflections, achievements and regrets could come to life, what would they be like? The Oldest Woman in Limerick is a unique performance celebrating the individual lives and remarkable stories of older people from the city of Limerick told through the medium of opera.”

Devised by award-winning team of Brian Irvine (music) and John McIlduff (text), this opera actually searches for the oldest woman in Limerick and in doing so meets up with scores of individuals with plenty to say.

“Everything is documented and anything might surface in the opera. Bizarre encounters, chance meetings and poignant reflections are all in the mix. Performed by a specially assembled team of singers and instrumentalists with locally based choirs, this specially commissioned opera will engage and entertain you, reflecting a great range of human emotions and celebrating the life-affirming joy of the human voice.”

The cast includes Sylvia O’Brien, Sharon Carty, Emma Nash, Rachel Croash and Limerick’s Sarah Shine.

Tickets are €25/Concessions €20 and are available on 061-774774 and www.limetreetheatre.ie.

 

The Colleen Bawn Trials/The River

I want to flag two very unique theatre performances running locally over the next few weeks. Both have a strong vein of fact and truth threading through them to create engaging stories.

15124_850079598337453_4081156586972086266_nThe Colleen Bawn Trials, is starting this Thursday (August 14) and running every night (except August 17) at 8.30pm until August 23.

Billed as “an immersive theatrical experience”, the piece has been created in collaboration with sonic artist, John Greenwood; visual artist, Anne-Marie Morrin with lighting and videography by Art O’Laoire.

Directed by Joan Sheehy, it is a re-telling of a famous local story which has inspired many different texts—the play The Colleen Bawn by Dion Boucicault; a 1911 film of the same name; the opera, Lily of Killarney, and the novels, Death Sails the Shannon and The Collegians by Limerick author, Gerald Griffin. Griffin covered the trial upon which all of the texts is based. It revolves around the story of 15 year old Ellen Hanley whose body was washed ashore in the Shannon Estuary in 1820. Her murderers, her husband and his servant, were hanged. The barrister and politician (‘The Liberator’) Daniel O’Connell, defended her husband, John Scanlan, in court but to no avail.

The iconic Shannon Rowing Club is the setting for the weaving together of fact and fiction. Audiences will move through the historic building on Sarsfield’s Bridge, experiencing the true story of the Colleen Bawn through dramatic scenes, stunning visuals and a haunting soundscape. Joan Sheehy produced and directed another promenade production, Buck Jones and the Body Snatchers, a few years back in the Georgian House in Pery Square. That was a comedy but made fantastic use of the space so I’m really looking forward to seeing this very different play.

This production stars Malcolm Adams, Gene Rooney, Patrick Ryan, Shane Whisker and four members of Limerick Youth Theatre, Laura Carey, Aiden Kelly, James Lillis and Courtney McKeon.

Tickets are €15 (€12 conc.). Suitable for audiences of 12 years and over. For booking and information, call 061-525031 or email thecolleenbawntrials@gmail.com.

The River3The River is starting tomorrow (Wednesday August 13) and will do two performances per day (1pm and 7.30pm) every day except on Tuesdays until September 1.

This new play—written and performed by Limerick playwright, Helena Enright and directed by local theatre director Ciarda Tobin—is making its world debut on the river Shannon because the performances will be staged on board a 90ft Dutch Barge in Custom House Quay located at the back of The Hunt Museum. Show on a boat!

The piece evolved out of the River Shannon Project which has run for the last 18 months. The play itself is a multi-sensory theatrical experience about The River Shannon based on real stories.  The playwright interviewed people from all walks of life and the play itself is a testament to their generosity of spirit. One of the noted contributors includes Sir Terry Wogan.

Written and performed by Limerick playwright Helena Enright and directed by local theatre director Ciarda Tobin—a combination to be reckoned with as demonstrated by productions such as Walking Away with their former theatre company, Amalgamotion. Helena’s work in theatre of testimony or documentary theatre has been critically acclaimed.

The City of Culture ‘Made in Limerick’ event was made in collaboration with Viva Voce theatre company. Running time is approximately one hour and appropriate and sturdy footwear must be worn. No high heels/stilettos. Admission will be refused if appropriate footwear is not worn

Tickets are €15 (€13 conc.). Tickets are limited to 20 per performance. For booking and information, call 087-3975526 or log onto www.vivavocetheatre.co.uk.

It’s great to see two productions with lots of talented local people involved and the lengthy runs will hopefully give audiences plenty of time to come along.

Irish legend, The Táin, reimagined through dance this week

The_TainThe ancient tale of The Táin is getting a 21st century rework with a hip hop dance theatre interpretation in Limerick this week. Running from tonight (July 20) to Friday July 25 at 9pm nightly in Limerick’s Milk Market, the epic legend of Cúchulainn and Queen Maeve will be reimagined and retold using a combination of dance and an MC to an original soundtrack by Icarus Rising.

The Táin—produced in association with Dance Limerick, the City of Culture ‘Made in Limerick’ strand and the local authority—brings together a cast of local, national and international hip hop dance theatre artists. It features local dancer Barry Burke AKA Bazzy B as well as other local dancers and members of the Limerockers Cru. The creative director is well known local theatre practitioner, Ciarda Tobin.
The blurb is: “The city is the state, two tribes collide, a hero emerges.
The epic Irish tale of Cúchulainn and Queen Maeve is launched into today’s simmering underworld of tribal turf wars. Fired by passion and pride, Cúchulainn seeks to defend his territory at all costs. In this explosive re-imagining of the ancient story, there are scores to be settled, sacrifices to be made and the ultimate prize to be claimed. This spectacular production fuses urban art forms with stunning performances…”

It sounds amazing and really unique! Making a story from the distant past relevant again is no mean feat and of course, this production builds on the buzz created earlier in the month by the The Tain 24Make A Move festival—a celebration of hip hop and urban culture.

The Táin is suitable for audiences over 12 years and there is limited seating.

 

Tickets are €10 and €5 (concession). Tickets can be bought online, at Harpers Coffee House @ The Milk Market and on the door (cash only for door sales). More general information here.
Ms Tobin said: “The legend of The Táin is familiar to many people. We have taken the original story and are re-telling it in the present day.  It’s still a story about power and greed, but the setting is contemporary and is inspired by city life.  We’re really excited to be re-imagining the epic tale through hip hop theatre and are very lucky to be working with amazing collaborators such as Bad Taste Cru – specialists in hip hop theatre – and Barry Burke, who is well known for his work with hip hop groups in Limerick, as well as Icarus Rising, who have created an original soundtrack especially for The Táin. This is the first hip hop theatre show to be produced in Ireland, so we really hope everyone will come and see what it’s all about.  We have a great team made up of creative and performing artists from all over the world, together with some of Limerick’s finest, and we’re very grateful to Limerick City of Culture whose funding has made this exciting project possible”.

See below for a teaser ad…

Cast:
Barry ‘Bazzy B’ Burke (Limerick)
Shane Davis, aka Dirty Harry (Limerick)
Michelle ‘Mystique’ Lukmani (US)
Darren ‘Jelly’ O’Kane (Ire/UK)
Sachith ‘Bboy SamRoc’ Premarathna (Sri Lanka/Dublin)
Nora Rodriguez (Mexico/Limerick)
Chris ‘Fluidgirl’ Young-Ginzburg (US)

Choreography is by Paul Martin and Conor O’Kane of leading international hip hop theatre company Bad Taste Cru, in collaboration with Limerick dancer and teacher Barry ‘Bazzy B’ Burke;
Original soundtrack is by hip hop duo Icarus Rising: Mexy (Dundalk) and West Knyle Ambers (Detroit/Dublin), featuring vocalist Emma Jane Maher  (Dundalk);
Set and Costume Design is by Irish Theatre Award Nominee Emma Fisher (Limerick)
Lighting and AV Design is by Art O’Laoire (Cork)
Film Content is by Shane Serrano (Limerick)

Review: The Bachelor of Kilkish

Irish-Barber-Sketch-1I was at the opening night of The Bachelor of Kilkish, the latest from Limerick company Bottom Dog Theatre Company, last week (June 12) in the Lime Tree Theatre.

Written by Bottom Dog co-founder and well-known actor, Myles Breen, the play is about the eponymous ‘bachelor’, Eugene (Brendan Conroy) who is a 65 year old closeted gay man who owns a barbershop in a small, seaside town. His world revolves around the shop and local goings on—chatting with regulars like hotel owner, Pat (Pascal Scott), who drops in every week for a trim and sharing cosy tea breaks with lifelong pal, Agnes (Deirdre Monaghan) and young hotel receptionist, Jacinta (Clare Monnelly).

His polite, low-key existence is shaken up when fun and flamboyantly gay young barber, Ian (Stephen Tadgh), takes a summer job at the shop. As the small-town ‘old guard’ gear up for the summer festival and the Colleen of Kilkish pageant (sher, they’re all lovely girls, ahem), the status quo is under threat and things are about to change drastically…and I’m not talking about the rearrangement of the amusement arcade!

What followed was a play that swung between hilarious and heart-breaking. It dealt with a lot of issues sensitively, such as homophobia and from the other point of view—the experience of being gay in a conservative community, hiding who you truly are and fearful of being the subject of gossip. Other subjects were unrequited love and the simultaneous comfort and claustrophobia of small-town existence.

The contrast between Eugene and Ian is as marked as the dichotomy between a small Irish seaside resort in summer and in winter. The interplay between the two was one of the highlights of the play. Conroy played shy Eugene with great poise and dignity, building towards a new assertiveness and sense of self. Tadgh injected incredible energy to nearly every scene he was in as the witty, exuberant Ian. He has a flair for comedic timing and is wonderfully expressive in the role. The scene where he lip synchs and dances to Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a contender for the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. The whole audience was in stitches.

The two ladies played their supporting roles well. Both were vibrant in their own style and were convincing in the more morose, emotional scenes too. Pat and his son, Mike (Cillian Ó’Gairbhí) represented the more conservative, ‘conventional’ side of society but came dangerously close to being caricatures a few times. That said, there were a few very realistic incidences of classic Irishman reactions to being in close contact with a gay person very at ease with themselves. The uncomfortable exchanges had great comic realism.

The Bachelor of Kilkish is well written. Breen excels at sharp one-liners and there are many brilliantly funny moments and scenes in the play. This was a blessing and a curse I felt because when the tone shifted to more serious interludes, the audience was still laughing and it was hard to refocus. As I said, he approached the issues with innate understanding and addressed them carefully.

Final-Poster-The-Bachelor-of-Kilkish-Lime-Tree-2014For all the fun, it was terribly sad in parts too. I felt a real sense of empathy with Eugene. I couldn’t help thinking about all the others like him. The play had a good balance of light and shade in that way. It ended on a somewhat predictable, but hopeful and life affirming note.

He has a keen eye and ear for detail, making the setting seem genuine i.e. the townspeople referring to tourists as “swallows” because they fly in for a period and disappear as suddenly or the pompous, self-importance of commanding figures in local communities (we all know one or more!) spouting about reputations and brands.

There was a lot going on and director, Liam O’Brien, pulled all the elements together. The music was beautiful—making the scene transitions flow effortlessly—and the barbershop set was excellent and used in a very versatile way. The lighting was appropriately subtle.

I had a few minor problems with the play. I thought it was too long. It was pushing two hours and 30-45 minutes I’d say and I think if it could be cut back a bit, it should be because it would be the better for it. I thought the subplot involving Jacinta and Mike was drawn out, as were a few scenes generally. But these are small issues with a strong piece overall. (Note: I got a comment saying it ran for exactly 2 hrs 14 minutes with starting late and an interval overrun. I still reckon it was closer to 2 hrs 30 mins (not 45 thinking working it out in more detail). I took the delays into account and looked at my watch leaving at 11pm but I didn’t have a stopwatch. Perhaps it just went on too long in my estimation. My abiding point is: it seemed too long and dragged a bit so it could be cut back slightly. I stand by that.)

I really enjoyed The Bachelor of Kilkish and the 350 strong audience did too—showing their appreciation with a long standing ovation. Bottom Dog TC has produced some fine work since it was founded a few years ago and with limited funding.  The play was funded through the ‘Made in Limerick’ strand of City of Culture and I’m glad to say it was money well spent. Funny and touching, this quality of this production really demonstrates what they can do.

I’d recommend it. It’s showing in Kilkee this Thursday and Friday (June 19 and 20) and Friar’s Gate in Kilmallock this Saturday and Sunday (June 21 and 22).

Top pick for next week: Waiting in Line

Waiting in Line- Clare Langford- Image by Sam KeenanWhat is sure to be a really exciting show next week is Waiting in Line, which is part of the ‘Made in Limerick’ strand of Limerick City of Culture.

The intriguing premise by Honest Arts combines “artistry and the latest in 3D mapping technology in this fast paced, thought provoking, physical theatre piece”.

It is a commentary on the ‘social welfare culture’ that has been created in Ireland over the past 25 years.

The production is running from May 22-24 (previews May 21) and taking place Dance Limerick, St. John’s Square. It will be performed by Clare Langford and Pius McGrath and directed by Tara Doolan. Please note this show is suitable for audiences 15+

WAITING IN LINE - Pius McGrath - Image by Sam KeenanHonest Arts toured to EdFringe in 2013 with The Mid-Knight Cowboy which received rave reviews and was also performed on Broadway NYC.

The Scotsman newspaper said that “McGrath is a talented performer, shifting through the generations with little more than subtle adjustments of speech and body”.

Bookings by phone: 061- 467813 or online at: waitinginline.eventbrite.ie.

For more information, see www.facebook.com/HonestArtsCo and @Honest_Arts