With a particularly exciting line up for this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, drama queens have been spoiled for choice. The GCN team have leapt right in, trying to grab as many quality shows as possible. Here’s a quick round up of what we’ve seen so far.
Dublin Theatre Festival. A black box theatre. A vast empty space. Six actors stand scattered. A charming live voiceover begins. It’s the director Anna Karasinska. She charismatically says that she’s decided tonight’s performance will mostly be in English. We have a projection subtitle bar for those moments when the actors recite short selections of Polish text.
The premise is this- the director speaks into the PA from an unknown location in the theatre. She calls each actor by name, tells them who or what they are, and what they might be feeling in that moment. We then see the actor, with very subtle and often repetitive expressions and actions, respond to the director’s voice. Then we, as the audience use our imagination to make the magic happen. So this really depends on the viewer and their willingness to engage in something so pared back.
The show is suggestively improvised, but many elements feel practised and well rehearsed, with masterful nuances from the actors. You’re led to believe that it’s all improvised and changing on the fly, but there’s a few jarring moments that seem to suggest otherwise.
It feels very much like watching a workshop or an acting exercise take place, and although it was fun and enjoyable in the beginning, it got a little bit repetitive after the first 30 minutes. But perhaps that’s a good thing. As an audience member, you’re challenged to stay with it and think about what’s happening and why. A workout for your imagination.
The Corn Exchange return to the Dublin Theatre Festival with their latest adaptation – The Misfits. Having previously taken on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, they continue to work their way through classics of American cinema.
While Arthur Miller and John Huston’s elegiac post-western is the more famous version, this is a take on the novella Miller penned to coincide with the film’s release. One can’t help but carry into the theatre the knowledge of the much loved movie classic, especially as it contained the last performances of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. But viewers expecting a literal take on that film will be disappointed, as this is, if possible, a more sombre and reflective piece.
A character study of three men and the woman who connects them, it’s also a melancholy look at what happens to cowboys now the Wild West has been tamed. Based as it is on the novella, one could be lead to think it’s ostensibly set in the ’60s, which makes the appearance of a mobile phone which suggests otherwise rather jarring, as the story isn’t really believable if updated to modern times. The pace of the show is quite deliberate, this, coupled with a lack of narrative momentum, means it tends to drag in places. However, Aidan Kelly puts in a great, physically imposing, performance as older cowboy, Gay, and the dreamy sadness of it all can be quite hypnotic.
There’s bravery in ploughing such a furrow of hopelessness, especially as one could be forgiven for expecting something a little more arch due to that animated poster and Corn Exchange’s previous history of high-energy adaptations.
Bringing something quite unique to the Dublin Theatre Festival, every time this show is performed, it’s by a new actor. Setting the scene – there’s a box on stage tied shut with the actor’s name on it, containing a script they’ve never seen. It’s an interesting starting point for a production about language and connection as a common thread throughout humanity. Nassim Soleimanpour, the writer, is an Iranian, not in exile, as commonly misunderstood, but has still never had his work performed in his home country. Something he wishes could change.
With this show he lets the audience in on a little about himself and his journey. He does this quite playfully by using the actor to speak his words as though they themselves are curious to know more. Nassim is mute throughout. Through a clever use of live feed camera, projection and Skype, he brings a very simple but sweet story to life.
It’s a fun and heartwarming piece that can’t help but evoke empathy. We’re artfully guided to imagine ourselves as a child in our mothers care, reminding us of that pure and loving human connection so early on. And we even learn a little Farsi along the way.
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