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Educating Rita at the Gaiety Theatre (Review)

The works of Willy Russell have endured remarkably well.

Educating Rita holds up as perfectly today as it did when it was first written over a quarter of a century ago. For this latest production by Lyric Theatre, Russell has updated and tweaked the original text slightly. He translates the drama from Liverpool to Belfast, with director Emma Jordan reinforcing the shift in setting by punctuating the acts with snippets of radio coverage recalling the darkest days of the Troubles. The setting adds resonance to the themes of play and its characters, but the truth is that it’s hardly necessary.

Russell’s Educating Rita is a beautiful expression of that yearning to escape, of the desire to be “free”, whether from one’s economic conditions, the dreary drag the day-to-day life, or even one’s own destructive habits. It is a loving ode to those who find the courage to pursue that freedom, and a tragic paean for those who lack the strength. Jordan’s stage adaptation of Russell’s play captures that sense of desperation and passion beautifully, anchored in a powerhouse central performance by Kerri Quinn as the eponymous hairdresser.

Lyric Theatre’s adaptation of Educating Rita is a joy.

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Quietly at the Peacock Theatre (Review)

So, a Catholic and a Protestant walk into a bar. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Quietly is a fascinating exploration of the Troubles from writer Owen McCafferty and director Jimmy Fay. While it’s often very difficult to translate the real life conflict into art – in many respects, it’s too real and too recent and too raw for us to process fully at this point – Quietly does an excellent job capturing the necessary steps forward for those affected by (and involved in) violence in the North. The result is a truly fascinating piece of theatre, and something well worth seeing during it’s run at the Peacock stage.

Picture by Anthony Woods…

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The Judas Kiss at the Gaiety Theatre (Review)

Rupert Everett is amazing as Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss, with the veteran actor’s enthusiasm for all things Wildean seeping into the very fabric of David Hare’s examination of the Irish writer’s tragedy (or folly, depending on how sympathetic you are). Ably supported by fantastic ensemble, lavish set design and solid direction, The Judas Kiss is a rare theatrical pleasure. David Hare’s script manages to entertain and engage without ever seeming to pander, or without ever seeming too forced or obvious, and Everett provides a stunning portrait of a man struggling with his own ideas of fate and determinism.

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The Picture of Dorian Grey at the Abbey Theatre (Review)

Neil Bartlett’s take on The Picture of Dorian Grey sounds like it might be a good idea on paper, but it doesn’t really come off in the execution. Oscar Wilde’s dark and sinister gothic horror has a timeless quality to it, but Bartlett’s interpretation of the material seems a little too shallow. Given the subject matter, you could argue that’s a good thing, but it sadly doesn’t make for the most satisfying of results.

Shades of Grey…

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Jack L: The 27 Club at the National Concert Hall (Review)

Jack L remains one of the best live actions touring in Ireland today. The performer has a rare energy and a natural theatricality that lend him a magnetic on-stage presence. It’s always a blast to hear the artist put his own slant on songs by other artists. (Despite having a rather wonderful portfolio of his own songs to draw on, Jack L is also the second-best performer of Bertolt Brecht that I have ever heard. Only David Bowie offers a better version of The Alabama Song, which was on offer tonight.) The artist is wonderful to watch in almost any environment, but always seems especially exuberant when returning to the National Concert Hall.

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Film Adaptation of the Play “Kursk” Streaming at the Space From Tomorrow…

Every once in a while, somebody passes on a bit of information to the site that I think is worth sharing, just because it’s kinda a little bit cool and a little bit fascinating. In May, the British Arts Council and the BBC launched The Space, an on-line hub for the arts – available to stream on-line for free. It’s an absolutely fantastic way of sharing the arts with people who honestly wouldn’t get a chance to see them otherwise. (Especially at the moment, when the economy is the way that it is.) Starting tomorrow, The Space will be streaming a film adaptation of a play Kursk, based around the infamous Russian submarine disaster.

Image: Kursk Photographer: Keither Pattison

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The House at the Abbey Theatre (Review)

Tom Murphy’s The House is big play with some clever ideas, but not quite enough to fill its somewhat extended run time. In fact, the first half of the play, as Murphy tries to settle into his groove, seems to run nearly forever – to the point where, sitting in my seat, I was starting to wonder if the actors had simply forgotten there was supposed to be an intermission. The second half, however, is much stronger and much more tightly focused. While the production itself is nothing less than impressive, one wonders if an editor might have been well-suited to take a hacksaw to Murphy’s script, or perhaps director Annabelle Comyn might have cut down on the staring into middle-distance.

House that now?

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Silent at the Peacock Theatre (Review)

Fishamble’s Silent has already completely sold out its run at the Peacock Theatre. Of course, that shouldn’t be a massive surprise. Winning both the Fringe First and the Herald Angel awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, the one-man show has been touring to great acclaim nationally and internationally. It’s a powerful, well-produced piece of theatre, with writer Pat Kinevane turning in a superb lead performance as the show’s narrator, a charming and engaging (and deeply troubled) homeless man named Tino McGoldrig. His mother was a fan of Rudolph Valentino, he explains, and “Rudolph” just wouldn’t cut it down in Cork. Touching, moving and excellently constructed, it’s an occasionally harrowing piece of theatre.

Yes. It is. Quite. (Photo by mariafalconer.co.uk)

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Alice in Funderland at the Abbey (Review)

I had the pleasure of catching Alice in Funderland at the Abbey Theatre on Friday night. An attempt to playfully recast Lewis Carroll’s iconic story against the backdrop of modern Dublin, it is – for most of its runtime – an enjoyable high-energy experience with a cheeky charm and a winning wit. It is, however, just a little bit uneven – especially in its first act. In fact, the play works much better indulging its delightful appetite for the insane and the surreal, instead of attempting to offer rather blunt commentary on the political and social character of modern Ireland.

Alice? Who the %@#! is Alice?

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Avenue Q at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre (Review)

I had the pleasure of catching the superb Avenue Q at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre this evening. The play is a rather brilliantly subversive exploration of what Sesame Street might look like reworked for an adult audience. Filled with the somewhat depressing notion that not everybody is special and not everybody has a special destiny mapped out for them in life, the musical manages to offer a more realistic pragmatic outlook on life without ever becoming overwhelmingly depressing. Brought to life by a talented cast and crew, it’s hard to resist the charms of Avenue Q.

You'd be a muppet to miss it...

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