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weighing in
There is nothing better than taking a mid-week day off and a lunchtime trip to the theatre. Bewleys Café Theatre are currently showing ‘Weighing In’, a fast-paced comedy about life, love and dieting – and how we just need to adjust the scales to find the right balance. It was laugh-out-loud funny and the perfect lunchtime treat.

Starring the perfect team of Isabel Mahon as the uptight, diet-obsessed posh newcomer Pam McGowan and Rose Henderson as the fun-loving, easy-going family woman Breda. After one Easi-Slim meeting the two women strike up an unlikely friendship with Pam encouraging Breda on her quest to shed those stubborn pounds. It is Pam’s enthusiastic energy and obsession with calories that creates the most laughs. The only thing I found a little distracting was the annoying chatter when Rosaleen Linehan voiced the Diet Leader. As their friendship grows and Breda starts to lose the weight, it becomes clear that beneath Pam’s slim exterior lies an insecure woman whose life isn’t as perfect as she makes it out to be. The play doesn’t take itself too seriously and the script is well-written. It is on till January 24th and definitely worth a look.

The sad news of Bewleys refurbishment hit the papers lately but be glad in the knowledge that Powerscourt are hosting Bewleys Café Theatre in the interim so lunchtime theatre lives on.
Bewleys

ourfewandevildays
This is a truly powerful play that makes a killer impact and deserves the hype surrounding it and its’ sold out status. It is written and directed by Mark O’Rowe who is a rising star in Irish playwriting. It’s great to see the Abbey doing contemporary plays and taking chances on new Irish writers.

I must warn you though the subject matter is disturbing without doubt. It is a play about the guilt and shame of family secrets that will have you on the edge of your seat. The acting is first class with standout performances from both Sinead Cusack and Ciaran Hinds. It also stars two Love/Hate actors, Charlie Murphy as the devoted daughter and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as her new boyfriend who unknowingly kickstarts the revealing of some old family secrets. I loved the homely stage setting, the normality of it and the underlying tension that pervades the play.

It is on in The Abbey until October 25th but at this stage I think it may be returns only. There was a large Standby queue the night we went so you may be lucky.
http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/our-few-and-evil-days/

mariner
I was invited to the world premiere of The Mariner by Irish writer Hugo Hamilton as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival last Thursday night. It’s set in 1916 during WW1 and tells the story of an injured sailor, Peter Shanley, after the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea. He has returned home to Cork after an incident in Portsmouth where he left his boat without permission and has been dishonourably charged from the Royal Navy. There is also some confusion as to his identity as his head is heavily bandaged and he has been rendered mostly mute and when he does speak he does not make any sense. The war has changed the boy his mother knew and she begins to question whether it is indeed her son. His wife is delighted to have him home and her love for him eventually is the key to drawing him back to reality. This leads to conflict between the three of them as the mother searches for answers.

It is lovely to see a play with two strong lead female characters. Sally, played by Lisa Dwyer Hogg, shines in the part of the young, slightly naive wife delighted to have her sweetheart home. The part of the overbearing mother, Mrs Shanley, is played splendidly by Ingrid Craigie. It is play about a mothers love versus a wives love and the struggle between the two but ultimately it is a tale of the brutal aftermath of war and the changes it leaves upon the people it touches. It is a very well written play using the power of dialogue to reveal just enough to make us question the man’s identity.

There is no interval and the play runs for about 90 minutes and this lack of interruption works well. The sparse staging and lighting add to the dark atmosphere. There is an injection of humour in the play throughout the dialogue which is much needed. Sally also adds a brightness and lightness to the play but ultimately war leads to a loss for everyone involved. I was kept captivated throughout the 90 minutes.

It is on in the Gate until 11th October. For more information and to book tickets, click on the link below: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheMariner2014

theprice
The Price now on in The Gate Theatre in Dublin, involves two brothers, Victor and Walter Franz, and focuses on selling their dead parents’ belongings, all housed in the attic of a large brownstone because the building is about to be demolished and they must dispose of the remaining furniture. The set design was impressive with an attic full of beautiful antique furniture loaded to the ceiling. A giant harp takes centre stage.

The Price, although set in 1968, has at its heart the timeless themes of family relationships and materialism. As well as being the price that an appraiser was willing to pay for these antiques, it also has a deeper theme of the price we all pay for the choices we make in our lives. Their father was bankrupt during the great depression of the 1930s which meant Vic had to sacrifice his education to look after the old man ending up as on the police force for 28 years. On the other hand, his brother Walter went on to become an eminent and wealthy doctor and washed his hands of his family not speaking to Vic for 16 years. Vic and his wife feel they sacrificed their dreams and eked out a ‘living like mice’. We feel Vic’s resentment towards his brother from the very start and his wife’s frustration with Vic who on the verge of retirement is still dithering about his future where in scene one, we meet them in the attic preparing to meet the appraiser.

The appraiser, Gregory Solomon, turns out to be an elderly Jewish gentleman brimming with a zest for life despite being nearly 90 and a real character to boot. He regales Vic with tales of his past – three marriages, several bust businesses and some great stories. He is a realist and a man who lives in the moment contrasting with Vic who seems stuck in the past and unable to move forward. He talks honestly about the disposable nature of things, how modern living places no importance on antiques that last and how shopping has become the new happiness – “…everything has to be disposable. Because you see the main thing today is shopping. Years ago a person, he was unhappy, didn’t know what to do with himself; he go to church, start a revolution, something. Today you’re unhappy? Can’t figure it out? What is the salvation? Go shopping.” Gregory fails to make an offer until the very end of the first part and just as they have agreed on a price, Walter shows up.

The second part is more about the brothers and years of resentment and bitterness bubbling over into angry scenes of confrontation. Walter waltzes in after sixteen years and takes over the deal much to Vic’s dismay. Both brothers have their own version of the past which has led them to where they are. Each brother believes that he has paid the greater price. The real truth about the father comes out in the end but it is too little, too late.

The production stars Barry McGovern, Fiona Bell, Denis Conway and J. Stadlen. All four actors/actresses play their parts to perfection. The play is engaging, at times both funny and touching.

The ending is reminiscent of the bitter, calculating old man who ruined his sons’ relationship as Gregory Solomon sits in his chair and laughs an evil laugh. Well worth a night out in The Gate – you won’t be disappointed.

Media,13410,en
Mid Summer nights dream outdoor theatre at Malahide Castle
Chapterhouse Theatre Company presents Shakespeare’s best-loved romantic comedy. Let yourself be whisked away on a thrilling journey to the most magical of forests and meet star-crossed lovers, playful fairies and raucous travelling players. Picnic with family and friends in the magical surroundings of some of the UK and Ireland’s most stunning open-air venues for the perfect evening of theatre under the stars.

This fantastic production will be aired on the beautiful West Lawn with Malahide Castle as the backdrop.

Tickets prices are Adult €17, Child €12 & Family (2 adults & 2 children) €48

Bring your own seating, picnic baskets and blankets

Free parking and only a 10 minute stroll from Malahide Village & DART station.

For more information or to book your tickets contact 01 8169538

For more information:
http://www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie/NewsEvents/Title,13411,en.html

forlove
I went to see For Love, a dark blue comedy about three women trying to find love in modern day Dublin in the small theatre above a pub known as ‘The Sheds’ in Clontarf. It was my first time in this local theatre and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s a small room but comfortable and well set-up. The play debuted in New York off-Broadway and is on a short tour around Ireland which was financed by the actors themselves. It was written by Laoisa Sexton and stars John Duddy, Jo Kinsella, Georgina McKevitt and Laoisa Sexton. The four actors played their parts to perfection. We have Val who is tired of one night stands and looking for more as long as they are blonde. Then there is Bee who is struggling with the fact she is shortly to become a glamourous granny and also deciding whether or not to hop into bed with a married man. Then there is Tina, unhappily married but with a love for shopping that knows no bounds. Each woman is simply looking for happiness in all the wrong places. It is a play with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart but be warned it is quite graphic in parts.

Due to popular demand there will be an extra show in the Viking Theatre on Sun 5th May. Check out details of how to get tickets by clicking on the website: http://www.vikingtheatredublin.com/. And if you’re in Galway it’s on the Town Hall Theatre on May 7th and 8th.

Once-200x300
Straight from the bright lights of Broadway, the Tony award-winning musical ‘Once‘ has come home to Dublin for a limited stay. It started life as a 2006 Irish musical film written and directed by John Carney. It was set in Dublin, and starred Glen Hansard (of the Irish folk rock band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová. It featured the song ‘Falling Slowly’ which won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2007.

The movie was adapted for the stage by Enda Walsh and directed by John Tiffany. It opened on Broadway on March 18 2012 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. It is opening in the West End on March 16th but is preceded by a European premiere performance run in our very own Gaiety theatre from February 22nd to March 9th. I went to see it last night and thoroughly loved it. I’ve been very lucky with my theatre picks lately.

The story is a simple love story, albeit with some complications, between a street busker and a Czech single mother. The leads parts are played by Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić who are both excellent musicians and performers. Their voices gel together well and Zrinka is perfect as the bossy but serious Czech. Declan has real stage charisma and the songs are handled well in his capable hands. The cast also perform all the music on stage doubling as the orchestra which is a great idea and brings the music to life. The music actually starts well before the play as the cast were on stage singing while everyone was taking their seats. The set design is minimalist designed to resemble an Irish bar with change of scenery signified by clever use of lighting. The bar was also used during the interval to serve customers who were served drinks in sippy cups on stage! There is lots of humour throughout the play at the expense of Fair City and Ronan Keating. There are some great characters in the play including Billy, the music shop owner; the Cork Banker and the mad Czech drummer. The star of the show of course is the songs performed to perfection. The moral of this story is don’t live your life in fear, a simple but effective concept. It’s also nice to see Dublin viewed in a positive way.

It is a beautiful adaption of a bittersweet and endearing film and they totally deserved all their Tony awards and the standing ovation they got last night. If you get a chance, definitely go see this play, you won’t be disappointed.

singlehood neon double frame
The Irish Times review uses the words “Heartbreaking and hilarious” to describe this play and you’ll be pleased to know it contained more hilarity than heartbreak. I went to see it last Friday 1st March. One of the sell-out hits of last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, I was dying to see it having missed out the first time round. I was delighted to hear about this mini-tour this year in February and March featuring the Draíocht Blanchardstown, the Axis Ballymun and finishing off in Vicar Street.

Maeve Higgins supported with some stand-up comedy beforehand, a monologue of witty stories and commentary of her own single status. She concluded with a story about proposals from her recently published book ‘We Have a Good Time…Don’t We?’ It was a great start to the play although a little marred by latecomers getting seated. Vicar Street is a great venue for comedy shows and music acts but not so sure the same is true of plays.

Following a short interval, the eight actors took to the stage. The set design was minimal but effective featuring eight chairs and some projection on the back screen. The play was written by Una McKevitt and David Coffey. They interviewed over 50 singletons which resulted in this theatre documentary exploring the art of being single through real-life stories. Stand-up comedian Eric Lalor featured as part of the eight ensemble who each told their own stories mixed in with stories from other singletons. The names and ages flashed across the screen behind them to signify who they were. This led to a bit of confusion as the girl in front of me kept turning to her friend saying ‘sure there’s no way he’s 54’ and ‘I’m sure her name’s Joanne’! What lifted the play to another level was the brilliant and catchy soundtrack by musical comedy duo The Guilty Folk who were part of the ensemble. The standout performers for me were Eric Lalor and Joanne McNally who both shone on stage. You could tell all the performers were having a great time and even the odd slip-ups were endearing rather than awkward especially when they had to do a dance routine.

The stories were humorous, honest and at times a little shocking. It made me laugh out loud and dance in my seat. If you get a chance to see this funny play then go see it – would totally recommend it for a good night out. I’m sure it’ll be back again real soon at a theatre near you but be sure to keep an eye out.

There was a great deal of hype surrounding Thisispopbaby’s second production after ‘Alice in Funderland’ and they were given the added pressure of headlining the Absolut Fringe Festival. Elevator is billed as a celebration, seven bright young rich kids reuniting in a house in the woods gathered for a party with a missing host. We are told the action takes place ‘tomorrow’. We are introduced to the characters and find them to be vacuous, morally dubious, soulless, cocaine snorting, party people! Their ambivalence towards life extends to their sexuality. None of the characters are remotely likeable. Having said that, the actors do a good job and the music is a welcome addition but unfortunately it isn’t enough. It’s all about living in the here and now and not worrying about anything or anyone. It is written to shock, the stories that are told are of a disturbing nature as is some of the action on stage. It is also lacking a plot. The play itself was as vapid as the characters. Johann has disappeared but in the end we failed to care.


I was really looking forward to seeing this play as I always loved the movie which came out in 1989 and starred some strong female characters including Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts. But the movie is actually based on a 1987 play by Robert Harling, which dealt with the death of his sister Susan. The title suggests the “female characters are as delicate as magnolias but as tough as steel” and tells the story of six special friends.

All the action centers around Truvy’s beauty parlour where the women regularly meet. Two of the leads, Shelby played by Mischa Barton made famous by the OC and of course her designer bags, and Ouiser played by Anne Charleston of Neighbours and Emmerdale fame were the selling point of the play. Mischa lived up to expectations but I was left a little underwhelmed by Anne. Although you could tell neither of the actresses were completely relaxed on stage. There were a few line fluffing moments, most likely nerves and you could certainly tell it had only previewed the night before. They are bound to grow more comfortable with their roles as the tour goes on but it was far from polished last night.

The play itself is packed with sharp, witty dialogue and one-liners and the set design and costume design were excellent capturing the horror of the 80s to perfection – the big hair, the unflattering jeans, the disastrous outfits. The set changes were far too clunky and took far too long resulting in jarring the pace of the play. Also the story builds up to a moving conclusion but for me that last scene lacked emotion. It failed to bring a tear to my eye. The real star of the show was Gillian Hanna who played Clairee – she had all the best lines and gave a fine performance.

It runs in the Gaiety Theatre until the 22nd September and then goes on tour around Ireland.

To learn more about the play and its cast, visit the Steel Magnolias website.

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