Review: The Boyz of Harcourt Street at Smock Alley

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Saturday nights should be begin with the likes of The Boyz of Harcourt Street – mad beats, lots of dancing and lots and lots of giggles.

Rocket Octopus Theatre Company have projected themselves into the Dublin theatre scene amidst a flurry of young-urban-professional soul-less mayhem. Completing its run at Smock Alley last night, The Boyz is a fun take on the hectic lives of three young professional men living it large and ‘burning the candle at both end’ as my mother would say in the heart of south Dublin city.

The use of sound stands out from other plays I’ve seen; DJ Kieran Roche shows superb ability and talent in his role as sometimes voice over, sometimes sound effects, sometimes actual DJ. For all its clever and innovative use of sound however, the storyline does suffer slightly as a result. Loud music  and caricatured dialogue said via voiceover from faceless characters interrupt the flow of the story, while the main actors play second fiddle. I get the feeling that if the three primary characters had more depth then the storyline would have pushed itself forward naturally, and sound effects would have been relegated to their rightful position.

The subject matter is suited to our generation of workaholic, recession cubs who dance between wondering what happens with our future whilst also embracing the moment because ‘who knows what tomorrow brings, sure we could all be out on our ear in the morning.’ The script felt like it was building up to some sort of epiphany which may have given the characters more poignancy but ultimately this becomes lost amongst the high-jinks on stage. Maybe this was the point all along?

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Creative Chats: Andy & Adam from Ill-Advised Theatre

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Ill-Advised Theatre Company – it’s a good name for a ballsy start up with ambitious plans to shake up the musical theatre scene in Dublin. By their own words the company want to ‘bring high quality and professional musical theatre standards to the Dublin stage at an affordable price.’ As founding member Andy Carberry explains, ‘when it comes to musical theatre there’s the likes of Bord Gais and the bigger companies in Dublin and then there’s just very small amateur companies, but there’s nothing in between that.’ His fellow founding member Adam Tyrrell adds ‘Rough Magic have started doing some great work so ideally we’d like to sit alongside their work in the arts scene.’

I meet with both Adam and Andy to discuss getting their first show [title of show] off the ground. Two of the five  company members, Tyrrell and Carberry come across as very passionate about what they do, however starting up your theatre company takes balls and for all their fascination with what some might describe as jig-acting on stage, these guys have them. A start up arts company will get no funding from the government until it proves itself and very few businesses will sponsor an arts group with no name for itself. Having passion, talent and knowledge just isn’t enough. Scraping together pennies from family, savings and an energetic fund-it campaign, the company have managed to set themselves up to run a few dates in the New Theatre next month.

It does seem unfair that, as Tyrrell explains, ‘the Abbey gets €7 million a year from the government but they’re the ones selling loads of tickets, the Gate get €1 million.’ Surely these are the most commercially viable arts institutions in the country so shouldn’t need massive amounts of funding. On the other end of this scale, you have two young and talented guys with big dreams but asking for just €3,000 to put on a show that the city has maybe never seen staged. With no experience under their belt, they get no funding. But who’s to say how to get around that road block without opening up arts funding to every actor with big dreams who rocks up with a script in hand, and who’s the say the Abbey and Gate could survive without that funding. The way Carberry looks at it ‘I’d rather more funding went to hospitals, carers and those less well off than the arts to be honest’. What a good guy.

Back to the task at hand, [title of show] is, Carberry enthuses ‘so reflective of where our lives are at right now. It’s all about struggling actors trying to find their way’. A unique musical piece, the show documents its own creation in a wonderfully postmodern series of ‘meta moments’. Tyrrell describes the play as a ‘real actor’s play’ but insists there’s something for everyone, with heaps of humour and the promise of an entertaining night out.

There’s still some work to be done, mostly drumming up a bit more awareness of the show and of course, squeezing in some rehearsals in space kindly provided free of charge to them by Tallaght Leisure Centre. The guys have some nice marketing ideas to bring them through the new couple of weeks and hopefully a busy two-week run in the New Theatre.

You can catch [title of show] between August 11 and 23, and tickets will be available to purchase very soon on the New Theatre website – just €15 for adults and €12 for students/OAPs – see, they are making musical theatre affordable! And you can find out more about Ill-Advised on their Facebook page.

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Review: Adventures in Failure at Smock Alley Theatre

Once upon a time, there lived three mischievous lamp elves, who loved to dance and play and most of all, fix up lamps. But soon, things weren’t going so well for the lamp elves.

Opening to a joyous dance routine and then leaping into a charming story of Marx-Brotherseque escapades in the attempt to save their lamp business, Adventures in Failure is an adorable and heart-warming show.

AIF_2Jessi Carri’s production involves lots and lots of lamps combined with creative lighting direction, some really jazzy guitar accompaniments, lively choreography and three superb performers (Isabel Macedo, Fiona Lucia McGarry and Rachel Mungra).

If you’ve read my previous interview with Miss Carri you’ll know that the show was put together using a lot of improvisation and experimentation during the rehearsal process and knowing this, you can see the natural ebb and flow of the story, with each performer gracefully working with her co-performers.

Smock Alley has been a firm favourite of mine for quite some time, and while the show looked superb in the Boys School with that beautiful exposed stone wall, it did mean that the theatre’s lack of tiered seating meant compromising sight lines. Something that’s not favourable when it comes to a wordless performance where the audience are reliant on facial expressions in order to understand the story.

I’d recommend a front row seat if you’re planning on catching this show (or just be taller than me). Which you should of course. It’s got everything you could need for a good night out at the theatre: something new and fresh, great music, lively performances and a really sweet storyline.

Adventures in Failure plays each night until March 29 at Smock Alley Theatre. More info here.

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