Theatre: “Macbeth” by Icarus Theatre Collective – touring now

[From Icarus Theatre’s Macbeth press release]

The vicious, barbaric undercurrent in Shakespeare’s fear-filled tragedy erupts in Icarus Theatre’s kinetic and blood-thirsty production. Unrivalled on the battlefield, Macbeth is rewarded with rank and favour by a grateful king but the war has left its scars. With each enemy Macbeth butchers, his lust for power takes a more menacing grip. Spectres slaughtered on the battlefield drip poison in his ear, and passions erupt as he ferociously seizes the throne. But, violence breeds violence, and a reign born in blood quickly spirals out of control as Macbeth’s demons return to destroy him.

Set in the 11th century and culminating in an epic battle filled with revenge, justice, and beheadings, Icarus Theatre blends the traditional and the physical to bring to life some of literature’s most vibrant language and characters.

This production centres around the idea that Macbeth himself is suffering from PTSD. Director Max Lewendel comments:

“War is hell, and medieval warfare even more so. There is something in the psychology of PTSD that resonates here in a very Hitchcockian kind of way. This world is a supernatural nightmare for Macbeth and I wanted to explore the idea that the horrors of what he has done and seen lurk in every shadow, in every corner.”

In addition to this new psychological element, many of the traditional male roles are here cast as female characters, stressing the importance of gender parity on stage. This is a patriarchal world, but one that is being challenged by powerful women pushing forward change.

For more information and to book tickets, see the Icarus Theatre Collective website here.

Lawrence Stubbings (Macbeth), James Heatlie (Banquo)

Lawrence Stubbings as Macbeth and James Heatlie as Banquo  [Image credit: George Riddell and Icarus Theatre]

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Arguing with Edmund Spenser in Contemporary Irish Poetry

Thursday 15th February, 7-9pm
Poetry Ireland, 11 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1.
Tickets: Free, but limited – booking advised. Info from Poetry Ireland website.

The Tudor poet, Edmund Spenser, is not remembered fondly in Ireland, despite his having written most of his major works while living here as a planter and colonial administrator in the late sixteenth century, and despite the interest of W.B. Yeats in his potential uses as an Irish poet. The reasons for this disfavour are all too easy to identify: Spenser’s vicious polemic against both the native Irish and the descendants of the Norman settlers who had become ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves’ (as the saying goes) in his political dialogue, A View of the Present State of Ireland.

But Spenser has been an increasingly noticeable presence in contemporary Irish poetry, prompting exploration not just of the darker moments of Irish history during the plantations, and their implications for Ireland today, but also of the opportunities for reflection and even self-examination his poetry offers an Irish reader – and ultimately, perhaps, a re-evaluation of the usual narratives of the Irish literary tradition.

The School of English, Drama, Film and Creative Writing, University College Dublin and Poetry Ireland invite you to join five poets who have been thinking and arguing with Spenser in their recent work for an evening of discussion and readings: John McAuliffe (The Way In (2015)), Trevor Joyce (Fastness (2017)), Leanne O’Sullivan (A Quarter of an Hour (2018)), Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (Ireland Professor of Poetry (2001-2004)), and current Ireland Professor of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (The Boys of Bluehill (2015)).

Tickets: Free, but limited – booking advised here.

The_Faerie_Queene_frontispiece

Frontispiece to The Faerie Queene, printed 1590.

“The Winter’s Tale” at the Lir, Dublin

Performances at the Lir on Pearse Street, Dublin, from Friday 1st December until Thursday 7th December, at 7.30pm. Matinee: Monday 4th December, 1pm.
Tickets: €15 and €10 concession

The dark dramas of violent jealousy, sexual slander and death at the court of Sicilia, lead to a small baby girl being abandoned in the wild reaches of rural Bohemia. There, sixteen years later, the hot midsummer festivities are the background for delight, disguise and denunciation, which in turn carry the tale, replete with runaway lovers, a scalliwag, an old shepherd and his clown son back to Sicilia. The icy mourning of King Leontes begins to thaw as these two contrasting worlds meld, and in a magical finale full of revelations,  Shakespeare shows us his delight in such a vivid, motley collection of characters and his ultimate belief in forgiveness and redemption.

For more information on the production and to book tickets, see the Lir website here.

 

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.

K800_HAMNET-3177 - Dead Centre - 2017

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.

Hamnet 2017 - H in white makeup - deadcentre.org

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.

Theatre: Hamnet, Abbey Theatre

hamnet online_holding_even

Hamnet

An Abbey Theatre and Dead Centre Co-production

From the Abbey website:

Grief fills the room up of my absent child
King John, Act III scene IV

William Shakespeare had one son. He named him Hamnet. He then left home to pursue his career in the theatre, effectively abandoning his family. In 1596, he was told that the boy – who was then eleven years old – was seriously ill. By the time Shakespeare reached Stratford, Hamnet had died.

In 1599, Shakespeare wrote a play called Hamlet.

Hamnet is too young to understand Shakespeare. And he is one letter away from being a great man. We are too old to understand Hamnet. How close are we to greatness? We meet in the middle, in a theatre, in purgatory: youth reaching forward to a life it will never know, an audience reaching back to a life it has forgotten.

A solo work for an eleven year old boy, Hamnet uses live video and dead video to bridge the gap between two generations, asking each other what they want to pass on and receive.

BOOKING INFORMATION FOR HAMNET

Dates: 26 September – 7 October
Previews: 26 & 27 September
On the Peacock stage

Times: Mon – Sat 8pm, Matinees Sat 2.30pm
Tickets: €18 – €25 / Conc. €16 – €20

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

More information: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/whats_on/event/hamnet/

Public lecture: ‘Gunpowder and Perfume: The Poetry of John Donne’ – SRS 50th anniversary

The Society for Renaissance Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of lectures in Ireland and the UK in early September, on the theme of the five senses.

You are warmly invited to attend the Dublin lecture, by Prof. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (Ireland Professor of Poetry) on ‘Gunpowder and Perfume: The Poetry of John Donne’, which takes place at the National Library of Ireland on Wednesday 13th September at 7pm.

John Donne portrait

John Donne

Prof. Ní Chuilleanáin is the seventh Ireland Professor of Poetry and her appointment was announced by President Michael D. Higgins in May 2016. Born in Cork, Prof. Ní Chuilleanáin is an award-winning poet and the author of numerous poetry collections.

Founded in 1967, the SRS “provides a national, and international forum for all those – whether academics, independent scholars, postgraduates and undergraduates, school teachers and students, or members of the general public – who have an interest in any aspect of the study of the Renaissance” (source: SRS website).

Concert in Cork by UCC’s Early Music Ensemble and Chamber Musicians

University College Cork’s Early Music Ensemble (directed by Simon MacHale) and Chamber Music Ensemble (directed by Dr Jillian Rogers) will perform a joint evening concert of chamber and consort music of the fifteenth to eighteenth century on Wednesday 10th May.

This free event will take place in the beautiful nineteenth century surroundings of St. Vincent’s Church, Cork city, at 7.30pm.

st_vincents_church

St. Vincent’s church, Sunday’s Well, Cork city.