Category Archives: Theatre

Review: Druid Theatre’s A Whistle in the Dark

By a chance encounter with one of Druid’s posters stuck up in a cafe in Galway (traditional media is still effective then), I found myself at the lovely Town Hall Theatre last night for Druid Theatre’s A Whistle in the Dark. The production is part of the company’s DruidMurphy project, which is a celebration and study of the work of Tom Murphy and is actually being directed by the playwright also.

Featuring a great line up of actors including Eileen Walsh, Marty Rea, Niall Buggy and Aaron Monaghan; A Whistle in the Dark is not for the faint-hearted but for those who brave it out, it’s an invigorating story of how violence, stubborn pride as well as denial is passed down through a family to devastating effects.

Rea’s Michael is the meek eldest son of the Carney family, known for their violent, scoundrel ways. Having left the family home in Ireland ten years previous to settle in England, he has married an Englishwoman (Walsh’s Betty) and made a home for himself, away from a self-righteous, domineering father and bullying brothers. His safe haven doesn’t last too long, and his brothers and father follow him to England to settle a debt and resurrect old tensions within the family.

Hassled from one end from a wife who is desperate for them to live their own life away from his wild family and from the other by his alpha-male brothers and father who tease and taunt him for his lack of strength and dominance; Michael is very much at crisis-point. His ultimate impetus is the family’s indoctrination of the youngest son Des, into their violent ways.

I’ve been to far too many Hollywood blockbuster movies, along with a childhood spent watching Terminator 2 on constant repeat to be easily disturbed by violence however, typical of the way theatre has the ability to move an audience much more than cinema; when violence is displayed in person in front of you, it can be quite shocking. Not just the physical acts however, a lot of my fellow audience members drew their breaths sharply and I even heard some tutting when quite vicious language was used.

Along with a lively script and well-played machismo by the Carney brothers; the stagecraft also backs up the tone of the play. Defying the rules of stagecraft to wonderful effect, the characters regularly kept their backs to the audience; signifying their inability to communicate, shutting out their fellow characters and the audience too. It was really great to see simple stagecraft like this executed so subtly and so effectively.

[Spoiler alert] The play also finishes beautifully, with very effective lines falling from Dada standing tall, looking down to Iggy and Hugo, then to Henry looking down at Michael who cradles Des in his arms, showing how the violence has originated and been passed down between the family, ending with its ultimate victim – Des.

When originally staged in London in 1961, having been rejected by the Abbey Theatre’s artistic director; A Whistle in the Dark was met with much controversy and it’s not difficult to understand why. It was evident that quite a lot of the audience were unsettled by last night’s performance, and it’s this the most reassuring thing? That as a society we are not accustomed to violence and react accordingly. My most worrying thought is that I wasn’t disturbed enough.

The Details:

DruidMurphy finishes its Galway tour on June 9 – find more information booking here >>

Other than that, you can catch it throughout the summer and this autumn as part of their tour, taking in London, New York, Galway again for the Arts Festival, Oxford Playhouse, Cork, various locations in Co. Galway, Dublin and finally, Washington.

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As You Are Now, So Once Were We Review

It could perhaps be the 16th of June 1904, and these actors are trying to find their part in Joyce’s seminal work – Ulysses, however this is rubbished by the inclusion of mobile phones (albeit large cardboard ones). Perhaps The Company‘s initial plan was to “pick up the most important and unread book in Irish history and follow James Joyce as he invents a whole city and its people.”, however they seem to have become sidetracked along the way and instead of delving into Ulysses, they’ve created their own.

Far better than what the initial plan sounded like, this exploratory piece of theatre explores our everyday interpretation of all that happens around us, as well as our remembering or recreation of things past and imagination of things to come. The four actors become bloomalikes, wandering around Dublin city, sampling the food and getting into arguments about the burial of Paddy Dignam (four times over!).

The play itself is playful yet very self conscious in that it reflects upon itself and its characters as they reconstruct and imagine their day and how to recreate it on stage in the form of dozens of cardboard boxes. The actors themselves are outstanding for their perfect execution of complicated routines involving the boxes, along with beautiful storytelling and recounting of events.

The Company are definitely a talented group and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for them in the future. The play tonight was something very different, it was very “fringey” and experimental (not entirely dissimilar to the likes of Pan Pan) but at the same time, surprisingly well organised, executed and very polished. I would love to recommend others to go and see it but unfortunately tonight was the last night – boo 😦 Hopefully The Company will be back again soon with something different from what everyone else is doing – just like they did tonight.

You can follow their goings on on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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Medea at the Beckett Theatre

Medea is a woman scorned by a wandering husband for whom she betrayed her family. Faced with banishment from the only place she can call home with two small sons, Medea seeks her revenge. However, the only revenge that will quell her anger towards her husband is a revenge that will ultimately destroy her also.

Siren Productions modern take on this classic is stunningly executed and performed by a stellar cast including Eileen Walsh, Stuart Graham and the ever amazing Olwen Fouéré. The stage itself is a character also, a modern home, yet also a prison containing secrets and plots and ultimately the scene for horrifying acts. Medea, initially imprisoned in her bedroom, once the site of marital bliss, darts around her home’s many rooms searching for ways to escape the pain of her heartbreak. Other characters move fluidly between the rooms, echoing the motion of the unfolding events which shape Medea and her family’s future. A model boat is carried around the rooms, a symbol of the travel Medea must face into her exile, but also her entrapment – out at sea on her own with nowhere to call home and no family to call on.

The production is frenetic, full of energy and movement and also at times quite playful, however it is the closing scenes which are the most powerful as Medea reveals the true strength of her hurt and jealously and how far she will really go to exact her revenge on her cheating husband.

Playing in the Beckett Theatre, Trinity College until Sat. 25th of Sept. as part of the ABSOLUT Fringe Festival, this production is a must for those wanting to see an interesting modern take on a classic. And at €15 a ticket, it’s a steal for a production with such an impressive cast! Clickedy click here for more details.

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