“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.

 

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Gaiety School of Acting Shakespeare Schools Programme: King Lear (Cork and Dublin)

The Gaiety School of Acting Shakespeare Schools Programme presents King Lear. A run at Dean Crowe theatre in Athlone has already been completed, with dates remaining in Cork and Dublin cities at Firkin Crane and Smock Alley theatres respectively.

King Lear

The Gaiety School of Acting – The National Theatre School of Ireland is offering Leaving Cert. students a unique opportunity.

The Gaiety School of Acting is delighted to launch our 2017 production of King Lear. This production will travel to Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, Firkin Crane, Cork and The Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone from the 23rd of October to the 1st December.

This is the 5th year of our Shakespeare Schools programme and in 2016 we performed Hamlet for almost 6500 students from 130 schools. This means that almost 1 in every 9 students sitting their leaving Certificate English exams in June will have seen our production. We are excited to once again provide students with the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s work live.

Student tickets are €17 with all teachers tickets complimentary. Included in the ticket price is the following:

  • Traditional Production of King Lear (1.5 Hours).
  • Workshop (1 Hour) with a chance to engage with some of the cast about questions on the Leaving Cert, including relationships, characters and themes
  • Student Workbook with information on General Vision and Viewpoint, Social Settings, Characters and Theatrical information.
  • Pre show video for your students which will introduce them to the play, its literary genre and the cultural context.

Dates

Dean CroweAthlone24th-27th October 2017

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin6th-10th November 2017

Firkin Crane, Cork City13th-17th November 2017

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin: 27th November – 1st December 2017

Tickets: € 17 (Teachers complimentary)

Booking info: shakespeare@gaietyschool.com

For programme queries or to speak directly to the Programme Coordinator contact The Gaiety School of Acting on 01 6799277

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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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