You’ve got the cities most successful company, Rough Magic, presenting the countries favorite writer Oscar Wilde’s most popular work The Importance of Being Earnest at The Gaiety Theatre, our most opulent theatre. What more do you want? Well how about some Stockard Channing, combining her bankable weight from Grease (Rizzo) and The West Wing (President Bartlett’s wife) with her theatrical chops (she has an Obie for The Six Degrees of Separation and a Tony for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg) to breathe life into the character of Lady Bracknell.  Not enough?  Well there’s rising star Aoife Duffin repaired with her Christ Deliver Us Mater, the magnificent Eleanor Methven; the two Rory’s, Keenan and Nolan, cast well to type as Jack and Algernon and Daragh Kelly…well I just love Darragh Kelly. In a time of dramaturgic disappointment is this the light at the end of the tunnel? Director Lynne Parker talks to Caomhan Keane

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There are those of us in the theatre world that like to reside up our own holes and take a poor view of commercial theatre. Our face curdle like gone off milk at the thought of being caught at Dirty Dusting, we dry up at thoughts of Menopause The Musical and sneer at the producers who treat a source material like their very own Babushka doll. My nose rose like the Titanic’s rear end when I was first asked to preview The 39 Steps.

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May 28, 2010

A moments disclosure. This can in no way be seen as an unbiased review. I live with a member of the cast and one of the characters is
based on an influential figure from my childhood. So, now that I have armed you with your grain of salt, on with the show.

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The 39 Steps Review

May 28, 2010

The most marvelous thing happened to me at the theatre last night. I was entertained. From start to finish The 39 Steps immersed us in the magic of theatre, using minimal props and costumes to perfectly capture the sense of place and time. Based on the Hitchcock movie rather than John Buchan’s source novel, it uses four actors and a shit load of ingenuity to bring to life 250 characters, several locations and a cinematic plot that called for a bi-plane crash, a chase on the roof of a speeding train, a foggy moor and a dangle of a bridge.

Not for writer Patrick Barlow the large-scale special effects of your typical West End Show. Instead the cast manipulate light and sound, shadows and puppets to lovingly highlight the ridiculousness of theatre and the power of the human imagination. It’s the closest I’ve come to pantomime for adults and brought me back to those wonderful childhood theatre trips that had me slack-jawed, fully engaged and screaming for more. It’s performed at break neck speed with actors literally changing character( and sex) with the drop of a hat, props appearing seemingly from nowhere and exasperated performers breaking character to let you know they are in on the act.

The whole thing is just fantastically funny with a cast so committed to what they are doing they make us see what isn’t there. My only concern is that too much time is spent on winking and nudging that the basic story at its core, the thriller and the romance, barely get a look in.

Strike Interview

May 26, 2010


A fictionalised account of an Anti Apartheid strike that occurred in Dunnes on Henry Street between 1984 and 1987 will be staged all this week at the Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity College, Dublin. Using a cast of twenty to bring to life the story of the ten young women and one young man who walked out on the 19th of July 1984 Strike! follows the strikers through the wind and the rain, the good times and the bad, from ignorance to an absolute determination to get South African goods banned in Ireland. Aged between 18 and 24 they went from innocence to infamy, meeting everyone one from Bishop’s Casey to Tutu, singing on U2s Sun City and addressing the United Nations, loosing houses, friends but never faith along the way.

Its 28 scenes, an hour and a half long with no break, covering the nearly three years of their story. It’s energetic, using lots of 80s and South African music, imagery and slides and lots of movement, getting a little abstract in places

It is a fictionalised account, an interpretation of what happened rather than a direct retelling. “We have created characters that are composites,” says Tracy Ryan, the writer/ director. “I respect the people involved, keep to what’s in the public domain and work with the truths that are already out there. But because its theatre you have to look at how you make it entertaining.”

She met with the strikers, traced out the major events that occur in the story and got little gems from the people she met a long the way to spice up the facts exhumed from secondary sources. She plotted the piece, received feedback from Brendan Archbold, the Union rep in charge of the strike, and continues to inject the script with cast contributions. “I’ve worked with Mike Leigh a couple of times as an actor so I really do value improvisation” she says. ” I wanted the language to be authentic and I have a great group of Dublin actors who are improvising and tweaking as we go along.”

What does Ryan ultimately want to achieve with the piece? “It’s a very vibrant political play that revisits a time very similar but very different from our own. People were constantly marching; constantly out on the street protesting in the 80s, over various different issues. What has changed so much over the past twenty five years?”

She wanted to stage it now as the similarities between our time and that of the strike is uncanny. “There was a recession in the 80s; ICTU have launched a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and South Africa have the World Cup. So there is a definite resonance between the two times. “

Strike! will run from Tuesday, 25 -29th of May 2010 at 19:30

Samuel Beckett Theatre Dublin, Ireland

Check out my interview with the actual strikers right…about…HERE!

Slaughter House Swan

May 26, 2010


Elizabeth Moynihan’s Slaughterhouse Swan, one of the few original Irish productions in this years Absolout Gay Theatre Festival, is an intriguing look at the rules of attraction, a tale of love and obsession in rural Ireland that takes a hard look at the steps and sacrifices one must take to be happy. It is full of lush, descriptive passages, brave if not brilliant direction and some brutal acting which undermines much of Moynihan’s good work.

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Exiles Review

May 26, 2010

Last week I went to Theatre Plays production of Exiles in the James
Joyce Centre. “Inspired” by Joyce’s only play it explored the
nature of open relationships, the understandings and undertakings of
an older lover for a younger one and the oft burred lines between
friendship and true love. It is also, without a shadow of a doubt, the
worst thing I have ever seen.

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May 20, 2010

Twenty-five years ago, a group of retail workers began industrial action in support of a colleague and ended up as heroes in the fight against Apartheid. Caomhan Keane speaks to the Dunnes Stores Strikers. Photographs by Rose Comiskey and An Phoblacht

As they came in to work on July 19th, 1984, the staff of Dunnes Stores on Henry Street couldn’t have known that this day would begin one of the longest industrial disputes in Irish history. For months, they had been trying to pin down management about what they saw as unfair working conditions; so when instructions came down from their union, IDATU, telling them not to handle South African produce, they were only too willing to enforce it.

“We weren’t making a stand against Apartheid,” says Mary Manning, now 48, the first person to boycott. “It was more of an ‘up yours’ to Dunnes.”

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Match of the Gay!

May 20, 2010

Caomhan Keane chats to the Dublin Devils and the Phoenix Tigers, two of the city’s gay soccer teams

It’s 12 years since the suicide of the world’s only openly gay soccer star, Justin Fashanu. Despite the fact that nearly 4000 professional football players line up each weekend in the UK, of every colour, class and creed, no one else has yet come out of the closet and onto the football pitch, fortifying the belief that playing for the other team is a sure way to lose your place on a professional one.

But there are some people bucking the trend on a grass-roots level. Since the early-noughties, three gay-friendly or exclusively gay soccer teams – the Dublin Devils, the Irish Shamrocks and the Phoenix Tigers – have been kicking away, and indeed, growing in numbers.

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77817100getty_wideOnce they were born with it. Then it was Maybelline, and now it’s the surgeon’s scalpel that Dubliners use to attract each other. One million euro is spent on cosmetic surgery every week in Ireland. But just as the surgeon sharpens his scalpel, so society sharpens its claws, ready to tear strips off the men and women who have made survival of the fittest a double entendre for our times. By Caomhan Keane and Leah Sullivan

Is dying your hair any more moral than boosting your bust? Is lifting your face so different from shedding your waist? In a world that pushes us to put our best foot forward, shouldn’t we applaud, rather than mock or envy, those who wish to take the next step?

The Irish are – let’s admit it – one of the ugliest races in Europe. It is hardly surprising that we are reluctant to discuss this subject with any candour. Yet in private, at least, more and more of us are taking the matter into our own hands. In a 2005 TNS/MRBI poll, one in five women said they would consider a breast uplift or enlargement, liposuction or a tummy tuck. One in ten men said they would consider cosmetic surgery, in particular, eye-bag removal or a tummy tuck. According to Marie Loftus, the publisher of Rejuvenate, ‘Ireland’s first magazine about cosmetic enhancements,’ at least 50,000 of us have undergone non-surgical treatments and around 7500 have had surgical procedures. “It’s a huge growth area,” says Loftus. “It used to be that people talked about property at dinner parties. Nowadays it’s this.” Yet for many people, it seems “perverse” or “weird” to go through the rigours of surgery for the sake of looking good.

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