Review: King Lear at dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum

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King Lear, Mill Productions, dlr Mill Theatre, directed by Geoff O’Keeffe

This production opens with pulsating music, flashes of light, and three gyrating figures moving under the sway of some mesmeric force, so that for a few startling moments you might be at a production of Macbeth rather than King Lear. These are not the weird sisters, however, but Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia who face away from the audience towards a large structure upstage while human actors transformed into wolves snarl and weave around them. Suddenly the stage lights are reversed, dazzling the audience, and the actors’ faces turn to the back of the auditorium: the King is entering.

The large structure ­– half set and half stage property – resembles part of a huge crown with three spikes each jutting in a separate direction, the whole piece off-centre and its balance slightly off-kilter. In the centre is a throne, empty at first, then occupied by Lear, and later hovered over, circled, and sat on by various other characters. This is clearly a disturbed kingdom where powerful forces have gone askew, where there is splintering rather than unity, and where a sense of preternatural menace hums beneath the institutions of state, family, and marriage. It is quickly understood, then, that the sisters’ dance is not an expression of communion but of compulsion and disharmony.

Mill Productions is the production wing of dlr Mill Theatre and this production of King Lear is part of their “education outreach”. When I attended on opening night last Wednesday, about half the audience were a school group who seemed engaged in the performance throughout. The production does a good job of communicating the plot and character relationships clearly without condescending to the viewer at any point, and of showing how the visual and aural language of theatre generate the play’s meaning as it is lifted off the page. A number of characters are played by the same actor, as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time, but this doubling was never confusing.

It was also made use of artistically in the case of the choice to double the parts of Cordelia and the Fool, played by Clodagh Mooney Duggan. There has been speculation since the nineteenth century about whether the roles – which are never simultaneously on stage – might originally have been doubled. This production seemed to encourage us to consider in parallel how Cordelia and the Fool relate to Lear, challenging but loving him, and the first half ends with the Fool in tears and alone taking off his coxcomb hat to reveal more clearly that this was also Cordelia’s face. Such a choice does pose certain obstacles, however, and perhaps hampered the development of both characters.

I enjoyed the cool malice of Sharon McCoy’s multifaceted Goneril who managed to be both fragile and terrible. Philip Judge succeeded in presenting a Lear who was clearly deeply flawed at the same time as sympathetic. When he laid his head in the Fool’s lap and implored “O let me not be mad, not mad”, his desperation and vulnerability were heartrending. So too was his later admission to Cordelia that “to deal plainly / I fear I am not in my perfect mind”, where the gentle cautiousness of the delivery alongside the situation’s absurdity made it truly moving. It was these moments of pathos for humanity as the trappings of civility are eroded, even as we recognise human culpability, that stayed with me after I left the theatre.

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King Lear runs at dlr Mill Theatre until 28 October with nearly daily matinée performances at 10am and 1.30pm. Contact the Box Office for 10am and 1.30pm performances please – info@milltheatre.ie / 01-2969340. There will be evening performances at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th October and Thursday 26th October.

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Conference: Constructing the equality of the sexes in the early modern period

Constructing the equality of the sexes in the early modern period /
Penser l’égalité des sexes à l’ancien régime
25th-26th October 2017 National University of Ireland, 49 Merrion Square, Dublin 2

Wednesday 25th October
9.15am Welcome
9.30 Margarete Zimmermann, Freie Universität Berlin (Emerita) ‘L’anachorétisme “mondain” de Gabrielle Suchon: un outil pour penser l’égalité’
10.15 Derval Conroy , University College Dublin ‘Strategies of ambivalence: constructing equality in Gabrielle Suchon’s Traité de la Morale et de la Politique’ (1693)
11am Coffee
11.30 Key-note speaker: Geneviève Fraisse, Centre national de recherche scientifique, Paris
‘L’opérateur égalité’
12.45 Lunch
2pm Key-note speaker: Marie-Frédérique Pellegrin, Université de Lyon 3
‘Égalité, neutralité, différencialisme. Confronter Descartes, Malebranche et Poulain de la Barre’
3.15 Coffee
3.45 Sarah Carvallo, École centrale de Lyon ‘Riolan et l’anthropologie médicale du sexe’
4.30pm Kathryn Hoffmann, University of Hawaii-Manoa ‘Difference and unstable gender in seventeenth-century France’
5.15pm Fin de journée 8pm Conference dinner

Thursday 26th October
9.30am Jan Clarke, Durham University ‘The equality of women: theatre professionals in seventeenth-century France’
10.15 Dan Carey, NUI Galway, and Gábor Gelléri, Aberystwyth University ‘Women and the Art of Travel, 1570-1800’
11am Coffee
11.30 Key-note speaker: Siep Stuurman, Utrecht University (Emeritus)
‘The emergence of a ‘sense of the global’ and the Enlightenment
critique of colonialism
12.45 Lunch
2pm Heidi Keller-Lapp, Eleanor Roosevelt College, University of California, San Diego ‘Writing Canadoises and Jesuitesses into being: Ursuline missionaries in seventeenth- century New France’
2.45 Carol Baxter, Trinity College Dublin ‘Anti-equality narratives in Port-Royal: an equality strategy?’
3.30 Danielle Clarke, University College Dublin ‘“Their sex not equal seemed”’: concepts of equality in 17th-century English writing’
4.15pm Closing remarks

The conference is organised by Dr Derval Conroy, Associate Professor, French and Francophone Studies, UCD.
The conference is graciously supported by the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Research Fund, University College Dublin; Centre for Gender and Women’s History, Trinity College Dublin; College of Arts and Humanities, University College Dublin; School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, University College Dublin; and The Society for Renaissance Studies.

Call for Papers: Extended Deadline 1 November 2017

British Shakespeare Association: Shakespeare Studies Today

Queen’s University Belfast, 14-17 June 2018 (BSA2018@qub.ac.uk)

Image from The Belfast Tempest (dir. Andrea Montgomery, 2016), Terra Nova Productions. Courtesy of Neil Harrison (models Sean Brown and Louise Parker).

Following on from the 2016 celebrations, the 2018 BSA conference offers an opportunity for academics, practitioners enthusiasts and teachers (primary, secondary and sixth- form teachers and college lecturers) to reflect upon Shakespeare Studies today. What does Shakespeare Studies mean in the here-and-now? What are the current and anticipated directions in such diverse fields of enquiry as Shakespeare and pedagogy, Shakespeare and race, Shakespeare and the body, Shakespeare and childhood, Shakespeare and religion, Shakespeare and economics, Shakespeare and the law, Shakespeare and emotion, Shakespeare and politics, Shakespeare and war and Shakespeare and the environment? What is Shakespeare’s place inside the curriculum and inside debates around theory, queer studies and feminism? Where are we in terms of editing and materiality, and where does Shakespeare sit alongside his contemporaries, male and female? How does theatre practice, performance history, adaptation, cinema and citation figure in ever evolving Shakespeare Studies? In particular, this conference is keen to explore the challenges facing Shakespeare Studies today and to reflect on newer emergent approaches. Reflections on past practices and their reinventions for the future are also warmly welcomed.

Plenary Speakers include: Prof. Pascale Aebischer (University of Exeter), Prof. Clara Calvo (University of Murcia), Prof. Richard Dutton (Queen’s University Belfast), Prof. Courtney Lehmann (University of the Pacific) and Prof. Ayanna Thompson (George Washington University). UK Premieres include: Veeram (dir. Jayaraj, 2016), a South Indian film adaptation of Macbeth, and Hermia and Helena (dir. Matías Piñeiro, 2016), an Argentine adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. BSA 2018 also includes: Q+As with theatre director Andrea Montgomery (The Belfast Tempest, 2016) and film directors Jayaraj and Matías Piñeiro.

There are four ways to participate in BSA 2018:

1. Submit an abstract for a 20-minute paper. Abstracts (100 words) and a short biography to be submitted by 1 November 2017 to BSA2018@qub.ac.uk

2. Submit a proposal for a panel session consisting of three 20-minute papers. Abstracts for all three papers (100 words each), a rationale for the panel (100 words) and short speaker biographies to be submitted by 1 November 2017 to BSA2018@qub.ac.uk

3. Submit a proposal for a performance / practice or education workshop or a teachers’ INSET session. For a workshop, submit a summary proposal outlining aims and activities and a biographical statement. For an INSET session (either a one-hour event or a twenty-minute slot), submit a summary proposal and biographical statement. All proposals to be submitted by 1 November 2017 to BSA2018@qub.ac.uk

4. Submit an abstract to join a seminar. The seminar format involves circulating a short paper in advance of the conference and then meeting to discuss all of the papers in Belfast. Abstracts (100 words), a short biography and a statement of your seminar of preference to be submitted by 1 November 2017 to BSA2018@qub.ac.uk.

Seminars include: ‘Digital Shakespeare: Histories/Resources/Methods’ led by Dr Stephen O’Neill (Maynooth University); ‘Shakespeare and Act/Scene Division’ led by Dr Mark Hutchings (University of Reading); ‘Shakespeare and the Book Today’ led by Prof. Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford); ‘Shakespeare and his Contemporaries’ led by Dr Lucy Munro (King’s College, London); ‘Shakespeare and Early Modern Playing Spaces’ led by Prof. Richard Dutton (Queen’s University Belfast); ‘Shakespeare and Europe’ led by Prof. Andrew Hiscock (Bangor University) and Prof. Natalie Vienne-Guerrin (University of Montpellier III-Paul Valéry); ‘Shakespeare and Film’ led by Dr Romano Mullin and Prof. Mark Thornton Burnett (Queen’s University Belfast); ‘Shakespeare and Marx’ led by Dr Matt Williamson (Queen’s University Belfast); ‘Shakespeare and Morality’ led by Dr Neema Parvini (University of Surrey); ‘Shakespeare and Pedagogy’ led by Dr Linzy Brady (University of Sydney) and Dr Kate Flaherty (Australian National University); ‘Shakespeare, Performance and the 21st Century’ led by Dr Erin Sullivan (Shakespeare Institute, the University of Birmingham); ‘Shakespeare and Religion’ led by Dr Adrian Streete (University of Glasgow); ‘Women, Shakespeare and Performance’, led by Prof. Liz Schafer (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Belfast is a popular destination and a wonderful city to visit. Conference-linked events will include Titanic Belfast. Optional tours will include the Giant’s Causeway and the locations used in the HBO series, Game of Thrones, which is filmed in Northern Ireland. Belfast is well-connected via two airports – Belfast International Airport and George Best Airport, Belfast. Belfast is also easily accessible by train, car or bus via Dublin International Airport. Discounted rates will be available at local hotels. A number of Postgraduate / Practitioner / Teacher Bursaries will be available to cover the conference fee. When you submit your abstract / proposal, please indicate if you would like to apply for one of these and if you would like to attend all of the conference or Saturday only.

Review: Venus and Adonis at Civic Theatre, Tallaght

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This exciting, moving, and thought-provoking adaptation of Shakespeare’s narrative poem opens with a theatre within a theatre, the ornate gilt proscenium in miniature glowing in the blackness of the Civic Theatre. The puppets are about a third life size, according to Gregory Doran’s programme notes, and their smallness and that of the set contributes to a feeling of a magical vignette into the otherworldly that persists for the duration of the production.

Most astonishing is the aliveness of the Bunraku puppets representing Venus and Adonis. The play also includes marionettes (puppets with strings) and shadow puppets, seen swooping behind a screen upstage, but it is the main characters’ expressive and fluent movements that imbue them with personalities of their own – one might even imagine changing facial expressions ­– as they are manipulated by a black-clad team.

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In Japan, the home of Bunraku puppetry, the manipulators cover their heads and faces in black as well as the rest of their body, but in this production the manipulators’ faces are visible throughout. Their faces seem to channel the emotions the puppets are feeling and they also vocalise for the characters (human and animal) at points throughout the performance, sighing or crying out alongside the narration.

It is in the intimacy between puppet, manipulator, and narrator that the play is most compelling. The puppets’ liveliness and seeming humanity, on the one hand, and the manipulators’ large dark presence behind them directing their actions, on the other hand, suggest the poignancy of human desire and our striving for self-determination amidst external forces so integral we don’t even notice them. Such forces are sometimes mysterious as in the second part of the performance when – to the collective gasp of the audience – the stage set itself transforms and takes up an uncomprehending Venus. When Adonis’s immobile dead body is tenderly picked up by his manipulator and carried away, there is a true feeling of loss and mortality.

Towards the end of the play Venus searches in the woodland for Adonis and the narrator describes her worried cries resounding in a “choir of echoes”: “’Ay me!’ she cries, and twenty times ‘Woe, woe!’ / And twenty echoes twenty times cry so”. In a fundamental sense, it is a production characterised by echoes, multiplication, and layers. This unfurls on the level of the performance, with the accompanying guitarist to one side of the stage and the narrator to the other, looking the part of a storyteller with her stack of books and comfortable chair, the proscenium structure in the centre with its elevated stage and a kind of detached thrust stage behind which the manipulators stand and move, and the use of a range of puppet technologies – as well as an introductory frame showing Shakespeare writing a dedication to his patron, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, as the narrator voices the words and marionettes move upstage.

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The narrative structure also layers and reflects, with the key scenes between Venus and Adonis paralleled by wonderful scenes from the natural world involving lovelorn horses, hares and boars, and with Venus’s examination of Adonis’s corpse being prefigured in Adonis’s tending to Venus in her swoon. But the overall effect of the production is not one of fracturing but of fluidity and expansiveness, reflecting the exquisite orchestration of the manipulators seamlessly working together on the puppets, and suggesting the multiplicity of life.

Venus and Adonis was hugely popular when it was first published in 1593 and remained Shakespeare’s most popular printed work in his lifetime. On its opening night at Civic Theatre, this “puppet masque” version of the poem engaged, delighted, and surprised its audience, who entered fully into the performance, laughing freely, gasping, and finally offering a standing ovation.


Venus and Adonis is a Royal Shakespeare Company production in association with Little Angel Theatre, and is presented by Civic Theatre in association with Dublin Theatre Festival. It runs at Civic Theatre as part of the festival until Saturday 7 October with performances at 8pm, and additional matinées on Friday at 5pm and Saturday at 3pm. You can buy tickets here.

  • DATE & TIME: Tues 3 – Sat 7 October // 8pm // Matinees on Wed 4 at 3pm, Fri 6 at 5pm, Sat 7 at 3pm
  • TICKETS: €25 & €23 concession
  • DEALS: STUDENTS: €10 – matinees only | MEAL DEAL: €36 ticket + 2 course meal | GROUPS – €20

Civic Theatre are also offering a Joy of Shakespeare workshop on Saturday 7 October from 10.30am to 1.30pm, free when you buy a ticket to the play. Call 01 4627477 to book.

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Review: Hamnet at the Peacock/Abbey – Dublin Theatre Festival

Hamnet, as the play’s programme informs us, is just one letter away from greatness. It’s a predicament that haunts the play’s central character, Hamnet Shakespeare, who is based on the real-life son of William Shakespeare. In the play, Hamnet is close to great things – his father, literary fame, knowledge, life, death – but is tragically trapped on their margins. In one hour and with just two actors, Hamnet plucks its titular hero from the side-lines and makes him the centre of attention to tell his story.

From his opening lines as the eleven-year old Hamnet, Ollie West arrests the audience’s attention and never lets go. As a ghost and in asking the audience “Who’s there?”, before telling us “I’m not allowed to talk to strangers”, Hamnet recalls the opening of Hamlet and indicates that fourth-wall breaking will be par for the course. The audience will be both spectators to and participants in Hamnet’s working through of some big and very personal questions – What makes a man great? Why do we suffer? Why do we make art? Why would you choose “not to be”? Are some people born bad? When they’ve never really lived, why do children die? Does his father prefer him or Hamlet? Why did they see so little of one another? It is remarkable that in spite of the gravity of these questions and of Hamnet’s situation, the play is packed with comedy. For instance, Hamnet’s youth is highlighted as he energetically knocks out a Johnny Cash tune on his keyboard, gives a new friend tips on how best to play dead (the key is to stay still and not breathe – wannabe actors take note!), and stuck for answers he pulls out his phone to ask Google. As the play’s authors have crafted a fine balance between tragedy and comedy, West has plenty to work with and he ably shifts between the tones and the media (stage and film) of this production – no small feat for any actor, never mind a pre-teen boy.

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Hamnet sees himself on the video – Image credit: DeadCentre.org

Exploring the performative and critical history of Hamlet, David Bevington observes that the play “has now evolved into a cultural expression of what we as a society have become today” (Murder Most Foul, 2011: vii). Like its more famous ancestor then, Hamnet tackles not only existential questions, it seeks in part to express and examine the state of contemporary society (“to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature” [Hamlet, 3.2]). Hamnet and his father Will are trotted out for our entertainment, but the play frequently forces the audience’s gaze back on itself. This is achieved both literally through the backdrop of a live video that shows the theatre and metaphorically as the play pokes at the suppurating wounds in modern life. Hamnet’s targets are near universal and many hit close to home; the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, Donald Trump’s presidency, celebrity culture, the double-edge sword that is technology, and child-rearing practices (including the Work/Life balance which is an ideal but more often another source of guilt for the working parent), all fall within the bounds of the characters’ discussions.

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Hamnet faces the video screen – Image credit: DeadCentre.org

Throughout, Hamnet offers several opportunities to play “spot the reference”. Hamnet’s speeches are peppered with Shakespearean quotations and allusions and at other times the play lifts wholesale from the canon. Hamlet is the key source, but we also hear most of Constance’s “Grief fills the room up of my absent child” speech from King John; as Hamnet misses his sister there are echoes of the separated twins of Twelfth Night and Comedy of Errors; Falstaff and Hal’s play acting in Henry IV Part 1 springs to mind when Hamnet plays at being Hamlet meeting Old Hamlet; and there are touches of Act 5 of Antony and Cleopatra when Hamnet worries whether in the future some actor will play him on stage, but botch the job.

The play is more than a tapestry of Shakespearean references though, and even as it draws on Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, it is something fresh, original, and striking. In the days since I have seen Hamnet, I’ve thought about it again and again – it is a prismatic work, turning the play over in my mind I keep seeing new facets, questions, and ideas – and I’m only certain of one thing: I want to see it again.

Hamnet is a Dead Centre and Abbey Theatre co-production and is written by Ben Kidd and Bush Moukarzel, with William Shakespeare. Cast and production details here.

Hamnet runs as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival until 7th October – tickets here –  before touring to Europe and Asia. There will be a Post-Show Discussion on Thursday 5th October, with members of the company.

King Lear at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum

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King Lear at dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Co. Dublin

Mill Productions present what is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s crowning artistic achievement. King Lear is set in the court of an aging British monarch. Shakespeare probably wrote it in around 1604, sandwiched between two other great tragedies, Othello and Macbeth. Mill Productions, having produced Macbeth in 2013 and Othello in 2014 now set to bring the ultimate Shakespearian tragedy King Lear to the stage. Directed by Geoffrey O’Keeffe and featuring a talented professional cast, this is a traditional production, with genuinely gripping and often affecting performances which sharpen our understanding of Shakespeare’s analysis of human folly and strive to do justice to this greatest of plays.

Starring Philip Judge as Lear.

Evening Performances at 7.30pm:
Wednesday 11th October
Thursday 12th October
Wednesday 25th October
Thursday 26th October

 

Theatre: The Shitstorm (The Tempest)

Shitstorm

The Shitstorm is a hallucinogenic West Kerry riff on Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, written by Simon Doyle and directed by Maeve Stone.

Miranda’s been stuck on the island with her dad Prospero for a while now and things have been pretty bad. His threats to give up his magic have always been hollow, until now… He’s run out on her and things have gotten a whole lot worse.

Ariel is out of a job, Caliban is dangerously bored, and Miranda is a teenage girl with no supervision. When the real storm hits she finally starts acting like one.

In this new play, Shakespeare’s characters find themselves in an entirely different context. The Shitstorm is a modern mash-up with some fierce female music and a new girl at the microphone.

A Maeve Stone production.
Developed with the support of the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.

Contains use of strobe lighting, partial nudity and adult themes.

Booking Information


Dates: 8, 9, 11 – 16 September
on the Peacock Stage

Preview: 8 September

Time: 9pm
Tickets: €16 – €14 Conc. / Preview €11

To book for a group of 6+ call (01) 87 97 266

Taken from: www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats-on/the-shitstorm/