Celebrity @ The Cube

January 24, 2011

One can’t help but role ones eyes when reading the press release for Peer to Peer’s debut production which runs in the Cube at the Project Art Centre till the end of this week. With its talk of being “a multi-platform theatrical experience”, references to social networking and Madeline McCann plus a stated aim to “reflect the current times in the fractured way that we experience them” the alarm bells are well and truly ringing. Is this going to be one of these painfully modern experiences, which are all flash and little substance? The case could certainly be made. But it is also winningly performed, enthusiastically presented and genuinely funny lacking the stank of self-belief run a muck which can often overpower the charm of such pieces.
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Like B is for Baby before it The Head of Red O Brien treats an issue worthy of serious consideration as a plot point (the sexual rights of the intellectually disabled in the former, the issue of male domestic abuse in the latter). But while both issues are worthy of a thorough theatrical engagement is it the responsibility of the playwright to stay clear of an issue altogether if they are not willing to thoroughly explore it? While it may be overly ambitious to expect Mark O Halloran to cram so vast an issue into the 45-minutes allotted for a lunchtime show (and do it justice) he nonetheless manages to inspect a lot of themes within this revival of his 2001 production. From the subservient nature of most Irish men when faced with a belligerent Irish wife to the maelstrom of hatred and spite that can confound the flowing tides of love, the erosion of the mind by a small town mentality is seen in the confusion and self loathing that arises when two people are simply unable to talk.
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And so here it is, that time of year again, the time theatre folk live for and nobody else cares about, The Irish Times Theatre Awards, whose nominee’s were revealed this past weekend. Taking place in Dublin on February 27th, three people took in 170 shows and divied up the spoils between 22 production companies-just not the old lady in the Gate, who took her pretty frocks and refused to come to the ball… yet again. It’s a fair, if flaky, list where the judges have admirably not shot their load over “the new” and “the innovative”, choosing instead to reward finished articles over works (and artists) in progress.

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Dion Boucicault’s Arrah-Na-Pogue, this year’s Christmas show at The Abbey Theatre, is decoratively directed, badly cast (though not badly acted) and is a painless if not particularly pertinent night at the National Theatre.

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Another director embracing the aesthetic demands of her production is Alice Coughlan whose staging of Gulliver’s Travels is at Smock Alley Studio till the end of January. Featuring giants, midgets and wise sage like horses who posses the ability to talk, the show uses puppetry, mask and shadow play to compensate for the differing statures of the characters while taking a make and do approach to the set pieces. The high seas rise via a blue sheet, large ships are insinuated by planks of wood and toy birds substitute for the real thing.

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