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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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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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Curse of the Starving Class (at the Abbey Theatre)

You know, just once I’d like to see a play about a functional American family living within their means and completely satisfied with their circumstances. Still, Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class is a fairly solid deconstruction of the American Dream, a play that was – when produced – a prescient condemnation of a society living well beyond their means. Indeed, there are more than a few uncomfortable laughs during the play that suggest it’s just as relevant today (especially when certain characters trumpet land as a solid investment which only increases in value). Curse of the Starving Class is a solid production from the Abbey that handles a well-respected play in competent manner, but isn’t necessarily exceptional.

On the fence about it...

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Pygmalion at the Abbey Theatre (Review)

I think it’s safe to say that George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion has had quite the impact on popular culture. Even those unfamiliar with the original 1912 play written by the great Irish playwright will know the basic structure of the story, filtered down through countless reruns of My Fair Lady and She’s All That. It’s hard to argue that anything in Shaw’s impressive back catalogue is quite as crowd-pleasing, but never at the expense of being sharp and provocative. The fact that it’s turning out to be next-to-impossible to get a seat at the Abbey’s run of the play indicates that the work has lost none of its appeal.

Doolittle doctored?

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The Passing at the Abbey Theatre (Review)

The Passing is one of the new plays from Paul Mercier playing at the Abbey, alternating with Mercier’s other new work, East Pier. The Passing is essentially a story about how disconnected we’ve grown as a nation, out of touch with one another, and our roots. It’s the type of reflection that one sees frequently these days, so it seems reasonable to expect any material covering the theme to try to approach it in a novel or an interesting way. Instead, The Passing is just about passable as an exploration of social isolation in 21st century Ireland.

Pass on this one?

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John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre

The Abbey is very much selling Frank McGuinness’ adaptation of Henrik Ibsin’s John Gabriel Borkman as a timely piece of work. Set during a recession and focusing on a former banker who has managed to avoid squalor by assuring his property ends up in the hands of his sister-in-law (though she bought it at auction rather than the fact he assigned it to her), it is an easy enough sell in modern Ireland. However, the play’s themes are much more universal than that – it’s a story about our attempts to live vicariously through others and attempt to define ourselves contrary to whatever plans those around us might have, a reflection on how easily and readily we construct elaborate cages for ourselves (but cages that we insist are actually throne rooms). However, the main draw to this theatrical run – and perhaps the factor behind its near-constantly sold-out status – is a lead performance from Alan Rickman as the eponymous banker-turned-outcast.

Cool...

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A Dream Play at the Peacock

A Dream Play is regarded as one of the defining moments of surrealism on stage. It’s not so much a play as wide variety of clashing ideas and scenarios, which overlap and bleed into each other as if reality itself is bleeding. The net effect quite wonderfully evokes the idea that the audience is somewhere very strange indeed – where characters and archetypes seem just on the verge of making sense before morphing and merging into something new and strange yet strangely familiar. The National Youth Theatre have staged a production at the Peacock Theatre, working off the version of the play “edited” by Caryl Churchill. I put “edited” in inverted commas because – despite not having an annotated version – I can offer a pretty confident guess as to which parts of the play came from her more modern (and vastly less subtle) perspective.

A "dream" cast...

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