Theatre at the Savoy in the next few days

Theatre at the Savoy has a packed few days ahead planned with lunchtime and evening performances for the Unfringed Festival and yet another new venture, children’s theatre, this Saturday.

In the regular monthly lunchtime slot tomorrow (Thursday October 26) and Friday, the play, PAYBACK! is on. The show is written and performed by Marion O’Dwyer and Maria McDermottroe.

The plot is as follows: “Welcome to the Invisible World of the Middle-aged Woman! Did you ever want to get your own back? Kitty and Mary do. Mary and Kitty have a plan. For…PAYBACK! Kitty and Mary have been hard done by, but they’re not taking it lying down! In the meantime, they’re having a jar, having a laugh, and hatching a plan.”

It has gotten good reviews with The Irish Times saying it was “neatly structured and with lots of funny lines, it’s an amusing, righteously angry hour” and the Sindo calling it good fun and “a magnificent and comprehensive revenge”.

The routine is as per usual. Doors at 12.50pm and start at 1.05pm. Be warned: half the €10 (includes lunch) tickets are sold already so reserve ahead to avoid disappointment (http://lunchtimetheatreorganiser.eventbrite.ie/We).

Also on tomorrow and Friday in the 6.30pm slot is The Wheelchair on My Face by Sonya Kelly. This won The Scotsman Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 and has gotten brilliant reviews all round from the likes of Irish Theatre Magazine and RTÉ’s Arena.

“Part memoir, part theatre and part stand-up comedy” according to the Irish Independent, the play is performed by Kelly herself and directed by Gina Moxley.

“I got my first pair of glasses when I was seven. A nurse came to the school and tested everyone’s eyes. And so it was discovered why I’d thrown bread to the floating crisp packets in our local pond and walked into lamp posts and said,’excuse me’. Until that day the world was a swirl of moving coloured blobs. I thought it was the same for everyone. How wrong I was.”

Admission is €15 per person, payable at the door and that includes a glass of wine or soft drink.

Both these shows—and the sublime, Bandit, last week—were developed as part of Show in a Bag, an artist development initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors.

Then on Saturday October 27 at 12 noon the first children’s theatre show will open with Goblin’s, Goons and Witches starring Myles Breen. This will involve Halloween tales with puppets, rhyme and verse. It promises fun for all the family and everyone is encouraged to come in costume.

Admission is €7 per child (€12 for two children or €15 for three children) and adults go free, but they have to stay for the show.

Bookings by phone: 085-8554341 or at www.lunchtheatre.com. More info on all the plays on Facebook and Twitter (@lunchtheatre).

Unfringed runs until Sunday so try and all the listings are on www.belltable.ie.

Belltable Unfringed: Digest.

I’ve decided that doing detailed reviews of everything else at the Unfringed is going to be impossible due to what can only be described as a series of unfortunate events BUT I want to give everything a mention so here goes…

Saturday
Lords of Strut: Two guys in leotards doing steet theatre on Thomas Street in chilly January sounds like more of a dare than an event. Sean and Seamus really drew people in with their double-act and bravado, which included a lively mix of dance and various other performance and physical feats. It had comedy, energy and audience participation. It was excellent. Thoroughly deserved the ‘Spirit of the Unfringed Award’.

Cleaner: This took place in two off-site venues and the one I saw it in was in the canteen of Watch House Cross Library. About 20 chairs were squeezed into this small room to watch one of the most innovative pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. Medb Lambert was phenomenal-utterly convincing and expressive-and brought four characters to life with ease. The technique being used involved using jackets and shirts draped over a sweeping brush, mop and feather duster to create another character and the actress used one arm (through a sleeve usually) to make them move etc. There was virtually no dialogue but the musical soundtrack made up for that somewhat and the mood changed with each track. For a 25 minute play, the range of emotion expressed was very broad. There was a lot of light and dark. Another audience member described it as “gripping” and that’s exactly it; you couldn’t drag your eyes or your thoughts away from it. The actress deserved her Unfringed award for Best Female Performance and overall, the production was excellent.

Beast: Saturday had a lot of highlights. Beast was a gorgeous play about an artist who falls in love with a prostitute, who becomes his muse and his saviour. The romance is eventually tainted by sickness, which is dealt with very honestly and sensuously. The script was very impressive-very rich in imagery with large tracts written in lyrical verse. This was complemented by video projections, mainly with a water theme. The two leads-David Heap and Hannah Scott-put in very intense performances. David Heap picked up a best actor gong for his turn while the playwright and director, Elena Bolster, got the Special Judges’ Award for writing which seemed skilled far beyond her years. It was very interesting all round but if I had to some it up in one word, it would be ‘visceral’.

Windings: Steve Ryan (AKA one half of Giveamanakick) showcased some of his solo work. Cecil Street probably wasn’t the best venue for the low-key, ‘one man and his guitar’ set-up. It was very chilled out and the material was decent. The highlights for me (no accounting for taste now) were the two covers he did-a banjo version of the Manic Street Preachers song ‘A design for life’ and a lovely turn on ‘Bright eyes’ by Art Garfunkel (which i normally wouldn’t be mad about).

Sunday
To draw the hectic few days to a close, saw two rehearsed readings. The first was ‘Dos Palabras’, an adaptation of a short story by Isabelle Allende. I’m not familiar with her work and I’m not sure it tranlated very well into theatre. The setting in the Hunt Museum was very fitting but only some of the characters were in period dress, which was slightly distracting. The performances by Charlie Cassey and Marc Atkinson stood out the most.

Also saw ‘Aquero’-a take on why pilgrims go to Lourdes etc, told from personal viewpoints, and what they get out of the experience. It was a nicely written piece by Helena Enright with lots of light moments. I’d be interested to see a full production of it.

I really enjoyed the Unfringed but the Belltable has plenty more in its programme so if you get the chance to go to anything, I’d recommend you give it a go.

Belltable Unfringed Festival: Memory Deleted


‘Memory Deleted’ was by Louise Lowe and was specially commissioned fot the festival. In one of the several inspired choices for offsite venues, the play took place over one floor of the Boutique Hotel on Denmark Street-very funky spot. The concept was excellent; what happened in your hotel room in the 10 ‘rentals’ before yours? Does it even bear thinking about? The performance started with giving the audience a chance to just wander through several rooms with guests in them. Of course, that was oddly voyeuristic and that set the tone for the rest. The main action actually took place in a single room but several stories were playing out and crossing over at any one time.

These included a couple who seem to be struggling-with the past and each other; a chambermaid who has run in to escape the inappropriate advances of the manager; a bank robber and killer on the run; two bright young things about to go out on the town…you get the idea. Characters came and went and at two points, action was played out by actors doing a frenetic, choreographed catalogue of their movements from their time in the room (The strange ‘dance’ was better than what I caught in ‘Rolling’ anyway).

The two most compelling stories were that of the chambermaid and the central couple, which is actually two couples. One man but two different women. The menage a trois was confusing at first until the deleted memories of the title becomes apparent. If only it were just a case of erasing what the psyche could do without? I wouldn’t like to give too much away but the twist was inspired and it was delivered with unflinching honesty. It resonates with me more, thinking back over it.

The young girl’s very different encounter happens offstage and is brought to life by her fevered re-telling. It involved being confronted by a middle-aged man in his underwear, who attempts to assault her. He got squirted in the eyes with Flash for his trouble but she accepted his pathetic attempt at making amends with crumpled fivers and some bars of Curly Wurly with as much dignity as she could. Her performance was very vibrant and added a bit of comic relief to proceedings. Some other funny moments came from her older chambermaid colleague who led the audience in at the outset, joshing about Limerick’s rugby heritage, and later had a ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ moment with a guest’s ‘frock’ and thoughts of her husband, Clem.

The ensemble performance was great and that was probably a key element in its Unfringed Award for Best Production. If anything, it tried to get too much in. A story involving a girl watching her and (presumably) her boyfriend on a video in the room didn’t seem to make sense and that was one bit that could’ve been cut without taking anything away. Several people were confused about what to do with themselves in the few minutes at the start where you could see other rooms but I think there was an assumption that you were supposed to ‘do’ something with those rather than just form an idea of what the play might be about.

The staging and direction, which I don’t think would have been logistically easy, were good. The setting was inspired. The script moved fluidly from story to story and was very strong on imagery. It was quite poetic and rhythmic in parts, particularly for the blood-covered criminal and the maid, building toward the shock conclusion with clinical precision.

As I said previously; the fact that you’re in a real hotel room watching a play about a fictional hotel room masquerading as a ‘real’ hotel room was strange in a good way. I imagine it evoked all kinds of memories about hotel stays with audiences, as it did for myself. To sum up, ‘Memory Deleted’ was very original and gripping from check-in to check-out. A definite highlight of the Unfringed.

Belltable Unfringed Festival: Rolling by Daghdha Dance Company

Friday night was a bit of mixed bag; the evening’s entertainment went from the bizarre to the sublime in about an hour flat.Being determined to see as much as possible in the five day programme, I decided to fit in an hour of ‘Rolling’, presented by Daghdha Dance Company, before I had to get to the 9.15pm show of ‘Memory Deleted’.

‘Rolling’ involved ‘Curator Chase Granoff working in partnership with numerous artists to present a unique night of experimental dance, performance and choreography, that promises to be thought-provoking and enjoyable’. The programme informed me that it was ‘completely undefined in its result…can take the shape of a chaotic playground, a happening, a performance, a political rally or an indefinable, previously unexperienced evening of sorts’.

I want to stress a few things first. (A) I know very little about dance as an artistic medium but I’m open-minded and willing to learn. Sher I’d try anything once (insert your own ‘that’s what she said’ joke >here<).(B) I didn't see the whole show, which was billed as 'approx. 2 hrs' although to be honest, I don't feel I would have given it much more time than I did. Leaving the beautiful restored church that Daghdha occupies down in John’s Square, I felt confused and kind of angry. Worst of all, I felt like a complete idiot, which I hate. To start, I didn’t get to see an hour of ‘Rolling’ because it started 20 minutes late. Being Ireland, nothing ever starts on time but that kind of delay shows a total disregard for the audience-most of whom showed up early and paid €10. The first contribution was a short film. Segments of several minutes included: a person sitting in what seemed to be a library, reading/working; barking greyhounds in racing traps and a young girl standing in what looked like a handball alley with the sounds of playing in the background. The message/aim was totally lost on me. Everything seemed vague and unconnected. As Carrie Bradshaw would pipe up around now, ‘I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing something?’ The next involved two men. In the centre of the room were two boards with the letter Q on one and A on another. One read (real names have been changed ha ha) ‘X’s question for Y’ and the other, ‘Y’s question for X’. The boards were inside a circle of rope taped to the floor with a table, with a desk lamp in the centre. When the lights dimmed, one man was lying down and the other not. They proceeded to each light a red tea-light (you see them on graves) and place them at different points on the rope circle. They rolled what seemed to be a bowls ball across the circle to one another and changed the position of their candles. They sat down, switched on the desk lamp and picked up microphones. One asked the first question. I was listening but it was quite complicated and seemed to be about pre-school education. The ‘answer’ was for the other man to walk about three feet, super slowly, exaggerating each individual movement. This went on for a few minutes and he sat back down. He then asked his question, which was two paragraph’s long and touched on globalisation among other big words. Again, it was long-winded and hard to get your head around without it being written down in front of you. The ‘answer’ was an odd dance with a lot of kung-fu like hand and leg movements. They switched off the light and blew out the candles. Much like the film to start, the whole thing made no sense to me. It seemed to be a series of unrelated and indecipherable elements. I had to head off at that point but the overwhelming emotion was relief. In didn’t want to sit through any more and feel like didn’t get the explanatory memo, struggling to give it some kind of meaning or relevance. The two ‘performances’ seemed ridiculous. In my 20 minutes twiddling my thumbs at the start I had skimmed the booklet but of course, it was a hotch-potch of texts, random statements and pictures. I was seized by an urge to maniacally shout: ‘What the hell is going on here?!!!!’ and literally beg someone to explain it…not say ‘but it’s inexplicable, silly!’ Sorry, but there is surely a rationale at work somewhere. I like to think that art is about collective consciousness, shared experience and learning. This was like trying to read something churned from an Enigma machine when you don’t have any context or code. ‘Thought provoking?’ Yes. My prevailing thought was: I wonder is there any way to get those 45 minutes back? ‘Enjoyable’? Not on any level. What was it all about? No idea! And I think very few other people in that room felt enlightened. It made me wonder how many of us were pretending that it made sense? Speaking to a college friend on Sunday who had been to some previous Daghdha shows, she summed it up. The gist was: ‘I know we’re not experts by any stretch of the imagination but sometimes things like that make you feel really stupid, even though we’re no intellectual slouches’. To sum up, I’m not trying to be mean or take the piss but I was very disappointed with what I saw of the show. I thought it was over-indulgent and exclusive. Also, I know it takes many forms but there was a lack of dance that I could see. I’m sure something was being discussed but I thought there would be more ‘disco’ in the ‘discourse’, so to speak. Were you there? Did you understand it? Do you want to help me to understand? Answers on a postcard…

Belltable Unfringed Festival: Pure Sketchy


Last Thursday night, ‘Pure Sketchy’ by Choke Comedy Improv packed out the Red Cross Hall on Cecil Street. Having already built up a strong local following, the troup were trying their hand at a sketch show for the first time.

The format was a massive change to their usual show and naturally it lost a little of the energy and ‘fly by the seat of their pants’-ness that characterises improvisation but it was a decent effort. There were moments of comic genius, which wouldn’t have seemed out of place on tv. The theory of what might be said behind the scenes on a kids’ tv show when presenter ‘Billy Silly’ gives ‘Milly Silly’ a nasty STD is one good example, as is Mike Finn’s brilliant turn as a Lord in white evening jacket singing a song beginning ‘Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, it is the stalker’s friend…’ There were also great turns in: Brian Cowen fooling the public with statistics; ‘Regeneration-a step by step course on cassette tape; musings on whether Thierry Henry tried to make Richard Dunne feel better by inviting him to holiday on his yacht and a mother who has no problem telling her five year old about sex in cringing graphic detail feels the need to pretend that NAMA stands for National Angels Monopoly Association… after all it IS the new dirty word.

The performers were highly entertaining as always-that co-ordinated dance number for the ‘dating disaster’ finale was brilliant-and the musical accompaniment by Dave Irwin was great. That said, some audience members commented that two hours was a bit too long for the format, which followed a ‘Meanwhile, down in Peoples’ Park/Foxes Bowe/Thomond Park/a local restaurant’ etc etc formula. There seemed to be some hesitancy in places. The strongest material came in fits and starts whereas a tighter, more fast paced show would probably have suited better. There was also a bit of stuff that missed the mark and some sketches referred to local lore and Limerickisms that would have sailed clean over any outsider’s head. All that said, the show seemed to be generally well-received.

Choke have developed a reputation for innovation (much deserved)and it was great to see them take on the challenge of a different style with enthusiasm. But You have to give credit where credit’s due. Improvising or with the back-up of a script, it’s damn hard to get on stage and try to be funny!