Browsing articles tagged with "Dublin Theatre Festival Archives - I Love Saturday"
Oct 16, 2013

The Threepenny Opera – Jazz Hands!

So it was that I met a friend at the theatre on Saturday afternoon. Matinees are such a pleasant way to while away the weekend. I’d had a busy morning, whisking Dad and the Bruv around town in search of a birthday present for Mother. I know, I’m a saint. We ducked in and out all over the Creative Quarter (South William Street & Co), Powerscourt Townhouse and eventually up to Wexford Street. Phew!

We struck gold, or should I say an opal and silver ring, at Djinn Jewellery. Gorgeous contemporary pieces. Designer and maker Simon Phelan advised us with his expert knowledge on gems and wrapped the dainty ring in a cool wooden box. Job done. Back down town and into the belly of Temple Bar, it was Mexico To Rome with the lads for a lunch deal. Burrito and chips with a bottle of Peroni for a tenner. Can’t go wrong!

Off they went, for more shopping (crafty pints), and I made the final stretch up to Parnell Square to The Gate Theatre. A small but smart space, The Gate features a low, open stage. You can catch all of the action, no matter where you’re sitting. Me and my mate were here for The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s the high octane story of lusty criminal Mac The Knife.

The production opened in style with the Street Singer (David Shannon), a sort of musical narrator, belting out signature tune ” Mac The Knife”. A tale of petty crime, street urchins, silly girls and crooked police, The Threepenny Opera unfolds first in the back street shop of Mr. Peachum (Mark O’Regan) and his formidable wife (Jackie Marks). This pair and their charge, the hapless beggar Filch (Laurence Kinlan) set the tone.

The Threepenny Opera is bawdy, in your face and actually does jazz hands. Brilliant. This version is directed by Wayne Jordan, with musical direction by Cathal Synnott. The cast, both young and vintage, are fresh and full of energy and there is some great voices in the mix. Set in Victorian London, though there’s Dublin accents at The Gate, Brecht and Weill offered a socialist critique of a capitalist world.

And so we are introduced to a cast of scoundrels, drop outs and hopeless romantics. Main protagonist Macheath (David Ganly) is a charming thief who steals the heart of not so innocent Polly Peachum (Charlotte McCurry). Their marriage causes ructions and we are treated to much hilarious to-ing and fro-ing, with Mac dodging the cops and Polly answering to her parents. His cronies add to the mirth.

We learn that Mac has friends in places high and low. His friendship with Tiger Brown (Stephen Brennan), Chief of Police, has kept him out of trouble. But he can’t resist Low-Dive Jenny (Hilda Fay) and her ladies of the night. Mac will never go straight and when Polly discovers a love rival in his other “wife” Lucy Brown (Ruth McGill), all hell breaks loose. The tussle for Mac’s affections land him in jail.

Ganly gives a big and bold performance as the incarcerated Mac The Knife, but it’s his women who steal the show. A scene with McCurry and McGill is great fun with the two gangster’s molls finally bonding over their plight. Hilda Fay shines as the tart with a heart, looking steely and sad all in one go. Mac is to be hanged. Alas, a comical reversal means that Mac is freed and a musical romp ensues.

I suppose the message is, life ain’t all that bad. We’re all in it together. That’s Mac The Knife, Tiger Brown and the Peachums. The beggars and the whores remain in the gutter. The Threepenny Opera, almost a hundred years old, is relevant in any society. The good and the bad triumph over the ordinary, as ever. This production at The Gate is action packed from beginning to end, a feel good take for sure.

The Gate Theatre, Cavendish Row, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 /

Oct 14, 2011

Peer Gynt – A Boy Living in a Man’s World

My new fave mode of transport is the Luas – it’s like my own Bat Mobile to The Northside. A five minute ride to Clerys (for ladies who don’t do BT), Easons and Foam Café. Last night I jumped out on Abbey Street and straight in the door of Sheries, the perfect pit stop before Peer Gynt at the O’Reilly Theatre. We slipped into a comfortable spot for an hour’s munch. Creamy lattes were followed by a hearty chicken curry, just like mammy makes, and a Spanish omelette with chips. I must mention the service in Sheries, not for the first time, as the guy in charge of this joint really is top of his game.

Stuffed chops, we made our way up to Belvedere College via David Norris’ stamping ground, North Great Georges Street. What a lovely place, an unspoilt oasis in a bustling part of the city – I can see why it’s most famous resident raves on so. The O’Reilly Theatre is a large auditorium inside the school and the stage was fully decked out with draped windows, chaise longue and vintage lamps for Peer Gynt. Rough Magic’s adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen classic has been re-worked by Arthur Riordan, with music by Tarab. It was a packed house for the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival.

The play opens with Peer entering what appears to be a hospital, to be stripped of his suit and put in regulation pyjamas. Soon we are introduced to his young self bantering away with his mother, the son she just can’t rely on. For Peer is the original Walter Mitty or Billy Liar, and gets carried away by his fantastic tales, riding on the crest of his imagination. Told in rhyming monologue the two bounce from one to the other as Peer soars through his grand story, his mother equally despairing and encouraging. Rory Nolan is captivating as Peer Gynt, the boy who never grew up, an escapologist extraordinaire.

We travel in rhyme and riddle through Peer’s mad world, not knowing what’s real or made up anymore than he does himself. When he runs off with a local bride to be he finds himself embroiled in the forest with trolls. This is where Rough Magic comes alive with all of the players dressed up in crazy costume and some great one liners pinging back and forth. Troll daddy, the Mountain King, is a funny creature indeed. All the while Peer’s mother and his true love endeavour to save him – from himself mostly! The action on stage is non stop with infectious energy and especially brilliant performances from Karen Ardiff, Sarah Greene and Arthur Riordan himself.

Torn between his alter egos of good and evil, white and black angels who shadow him throughout, Peer navigates himself in and out of trouble with some great highs and lows. Eventually we encounter him as an older man, having left home after his mother’s death, and conquered Africa. Or so we are to believe. With pomp and swagger he holds court until he is reminded of his sad lack of legacy. But yet again instead of facing the truth Peer transports to another world, this time ancient Egypt where he faces all manner of puzzles and familiar faces. Is his past coming back to haunt him? Peer must face the consequences of his misspent days.

The one thing Peer can’t escape is himself and when death is all around him he must reconcile his own judgement day. Aspects of Peer’s life swirl around his now jaded self. Regrets. Denials. The moral of the story is that it’s better to have been noble or villain but not on the fence as Peer, who now protests otherwise. He is a man who’s never surrendered true love, given without receiving or made his mother proud. What is his final fate? Although a thoroughly enjoyable romp, I couldn’t help but feel that Rough Magic might have indulged Peer Gynt time wise, as it spanned over three hours. A swifter conclusion might have added rather than taken away, but as a friend pointed out, how the hell do you edit Ibsen?

Oct 11, 2011

Gardenia at the Gaiety – Sequins, Stilettos and Stripping Bare

The Gaiety is a Dublin institution that means something to everybody in this city. Blood red and yellow gold, its dizzying balconies and velvet drapes are pure vaudeville. The Gaiety,Dublin’s longest established theatre, has retained a dusty nostalgia and sitting under the giant chandelier I’m transported back to my youth. No, not Victorian times! But to my college days and late nights, all danced out on Gaiety Saturdays, hiding out in the upper circle with herbal cigarettes filling the air… Last night I was back on South King Street for Gardenia by Les ballet C de la B.

On first glance Gardenia looked like a bit of a laugh, so I picked up a last call ticket from Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival box office in Temple Bar. Watch out for daily updates on their Facebook page. I knew the production was about a bunch of aging drag queens and somehow had an all dancing, all singing Pricilla Queen of the Desert scenario in mind. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Gardenia was surprising, at times shocking, very rude, very beautiful and certainly sad. The music, the cabaret and the downright bizarre bits knitted together a lucid message about femininity.

Created and performed by Vanessa Van Durme, who has openly spoken about her sex change, the play opened with herself and a troupe of ancient former dancers moving arthritically in their suits. Van Durme announced the demise of their glittery club Gardenia and introduced her cohorts, including Lady Fuckmesilly, Shirley Nightingale and Gina delRio. Unafraid of frank statement and filthy jokes Van Durme, in her inimitable sweet gruff voice, made the audience blush as much as laugh. Then the pinstripes came of, the frills were revealed and the men came alive.

What transpired was indeed very strange, a spectacle of moves, sounds and humanity. But what was remarkable was the awe with which the cast injected life into their female alter egos. Not just tarts with hearts but real understanding, love and tenderness. All of those qualities that have hardened up in our Post Feminist world. Acted out by men they seem so obvious – the ritual of applying make up, the feel of silk against skin, the gentle brushing of hair. Although Gardenia confronts homosexuality, transvestism and sex it explores femininity through the male lens.

The show is equally jarring and touching, helped by French and German soundtracks that echo a war time when the men would have been young. Perhaps their youthful selves are represented by the haunting Hendrik Lebon, whose ballet is mesmerising with comedy moments interweaving acrobatic skill. His scuffles with Griet Debacker, the only born female, were violent and moving. His struggle mirrored that of his older stage mates, lonely and bitter but transformed by their wigs and rouge. Hendrik’s feminine grace and hormonal flux told of the inner yin that that these men so craved.

It was a blue Monday, that I’d been hoping to turn pink, but instead Gardenia inspired a rainbow. And the pot of gold is being a woman. Females have been stripped bare of our true femininity by anti aging gunk, fashion magazines and Weight Watchers. I find it hilarious that it’s taken a bunch of aul fellas in full mother of the bride get up to point out what’s been under our noses the whole time. So ladies don’t iron your curls. Slip on a tea dress, add red lipstick and kick up your heels. Celebrate being a woman – not a dolly bird or a door mat. Know you are beautiful.