Screening and discussion: RSC Hamlet on RTE2 and Cyclone Rep Q&A

Cyclone Rep, Ireland’s leading Shakespeare Theatre-in-Education Company, is trying to help Leaving Certificate students during these difficult times, coming up with interesting new online ways to interact and make the works of William Shakespeare accessible to the young audiences. Due to the current lockdown the Cyclone Rep National Tour had to be cut short, but out of this unfortunate situation the company has come up with a solution to keep their mission alive.

RTÉ has announced that they will air Hamlet for the benefit of Secondary School students, showing the RSC Hamlet (2009) on Saturday 11th April 2020 on RTÉ2, 11.25am. All of the upcoming screenings of Shakespeare productions will be available on RTÉ Player for 30 days post-broadcast.

Following this announcement, Cyclone Rep has organised a live streamed discussion and Q&A on the themes of the Bard’s masterpiece.

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Tennant as Hamlet – RSC 2008

On Saturday 11th of April at 3.10pm, after RTE’s screening of the RSC production of Hamlet (starring David Tennant & Patrick Stewart), Cyclone Rep Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Peadar Donohoe, together with Hamlet Session lead actor Marcus Balewill discuss the main themes of the play and will answer any questions posed by the viewers. The streaming can be found at 3.10pm on the company’s Facebook page (facebook.com/CycloneRep). Viewers are encouraged to contact the speakers through social media channels (commenting the stream or sending private messages to the company via Facebook or through Twitter (twitter.com/CycloneRep).

Donohoe and Bale have been directing and performing Shakespeare plays for Secondary Schools students for over 15 years and have developed several productions of Hamlet in that time, as well as all the other plays prescribed in the curriculum for Junior & Senior Cycle Students.

Cyclone Rep Theatre Company tours nationwide to venues and schools and performs each year in repertory the prescribed Shakespeare plays for both Junior and Senior Cycle students. Over the last 10 years, more than 200k Irish Secondary students have seen the works of the Bard through Cyclone’s sessions. Cyclone Rep’s plays are continuously updated for the students to keep them fresh and alive.

For more on Cyclone Rep Theatre Company, see www.cyclonerep.com

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Cyclone Rep’s Hamlet


Cyclone Rep’s Shakespeare Sessions – celebrating 10 years of Theatre-in-Education

Guest report by Edel Carmody, Cyclone Rep Theatre Company 

This year marks the tenth anniversary since the creation of Cyclone Rep’s Shakespeare Sessions. Cyclone Rep is Ireland’s leading Shakespearean Theatre-in-Education Company. We are also (as far as we know) the only repertory company in Ireland. 

The inspiration for Cyclone’s hugely successful take on Shakespeare’s texts stems from Artistic Director Peadar Donohoe’s years as a drama coach in Cork. His approach to theatre was and still is deeply influenced by Antonin Artaud’s “Theatre of Cruelty”. Breaking the fourth wall, audience interaction, and heightened physicality are all integral components of Cyclone’s performance style. Using these elements Cyclone achieves their mission to provide secondary school audiences with an exciting and multi-faceted theatrical experience that engages, entertains and educates.

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Cyclone Rep’s “King Lear”    Image credit: Shane Vaughan

The Shakespeare Sessions are abridged versions of the plays that stay true to the language and spirit of Shakespearean theatre. Cyclone’s approach to Theatre-in-Education is highly collaborative and constantly takes on board audience and stakeholders’ feedback. A typical Shakespeare Session includes everything from a sword fight between an actor and a student to nuanced discussions of challenging themes such as madness, gender, or racism.

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Cyclone Rep’s “Hamlet”      Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Each year the company tours a number of Shakespeare plays in repertory. The 2019-2020 season sees four plays being toured: Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear and Hamlet. Marcus Bale, the company manager, estimates that by May 2020, over 31,000 individuals nationwide will have experienced this season’s sessions. Marcus, who plays both Hamlet and Shylock, is an internationally trained actor whose focus for the last 20 years has been the physical theatrical techniques of Commedia dell’Arte, Mime, Clown, Improvisation, and the work of Jacques Lecoq, Eugenio Barba, and Augusto Boal, and these practices have been incorporated into the Cyclone Rep’s style of performance.

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Cyclone Rep’s “Hamlet”      Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Also, true to 16th century performance tradition is the use of gender-swapped roles. Cyclone plays constantly with this tradition. In Cyclone’s Romeo and Juliet Session, Leah Wood plays Tybalt, while Kieran O’Leary plays The Nurse. Since Shakespeare’s time, his plays have undergone numerous iterations from a Soviet-styled Macbeth to Julius Caesar with an all-female cast. Engaging with this long-standing tradition, Cyclone has re-imagined Shakespeare’s work while staying true to key themes and interpretations. For example, The King Lear Session tackles the theme (central to the play) of nature run amok by setting the play in a post-apocalyptic world caused by climate change. During The Hamlet Session different interpretations surrounding the theme of madness are discussed by the cast with the audience. The Romeo and Juliet Session explores gender and sexuality, and even features Shakespeare himself (played by Mike Keep). When the Bard himself is transplanted into our modern age, he is forced to grapple with how both theatre and the role of women in the public sphere has changed. 

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Cyclone Rep’s Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet”           Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Thanks to audience feedback the Shakespeare Sessions have evolved greatly since 2010.In Cyclone’s first production of King Lear in 2015 the characters of Kent and the Fool were merged (this was done to allow for a five-member cast). However, students found this conflation confusing and teachers voiced this issue. So, Cyclone’s second production of The King Lear Session featured six actors and the characters of Kent and Fool were played by two different actors. 

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Ophelia in Cyclone Rep’s “Hamlet”           Image credit: Shane Vaughan

Beginning in 2010, during The Hamlet Session the main female characters are questioned by the male characters in a mock interrogation scene. Audiences liked this technique so much, that the latest production of The Hamlet Session similarly acts out an interrogation of the male characters’ motives and culpability. Ongoing feedback from teachers and students helps us to constantly incorporate and expand on aspects of the plays that young people and teachers feel are relevant today. Equally, the role of audio-visual aids has grown considerably since our inception. Initially the use of these projections was minimal but this has changed due to audience demand. Now audio-visuals are an integral part of the sessions, and we use a whole range of these, from animations, mind maps, and bullet points clarifying key ideas to rap versions of 16th century poetry and Joy Division songs.

For a decade, Cyclone Rep has been committed to bringing Shakespeare to life for young people nationwide in fresh and creative ways. Since 2010, over 200,000 young people have seen Cyclone’s Shakespeare Sessions. Thus, it is fair to say that in some measure, Cyclone is helping building Ireland’s next generation of theatregoers.

More information can be found on the Cyclone Rep website, along with booking details for upcoming productions (listed below).

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Guest report by Edel Carmody, Cyclone Rep Theatre Company 

Touring theatre: Much Ado About Nothing by Rough Magic

From the Rough Magic website.

This month, one of Ireland’s leading theatre companies, Rough Magic will embark on a national tour of Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.

Set on the deck of a deluxe mobile home this festive production of deception and excess, sparkling wit and linguistic exuberance asks – can we ever truly know the people we love?

On it’s premiere performance in Kilkenny Arts Festival (summer 2019), the Irish Independent called this production “boisterous and intelligent” and “a hugely enjoyable and timeless treat.” The Irish Times gave it ★★★★ and the Kilkenny People called it the “funniest show in the city for years”.

Ticket info available on the weblinks below.

Dates Venues
9th November Siamsa Tíre, Tralee
12th-13th  November
(With a post-show talk on Tues 12th.)
The Everyman, Cork
15th November Theatre Royal, Waterford
18th November An Grianán, Letterkenny
20th November Backstage Theatre, Longford
22th November Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick

Directed by: Ronan Phelan

Cast: Clare Barrett, Venetia Bowe, Peter Corboy, Maeve Fitzgerald, Patrick Martins, Margaret McAuliffe, Jack Mullarkey, Shane O’Regan & Conor O’Riordan

Set Design: Sabine Dargent                Lighting Design: Sarah Jane Shiels

Costume Design: Catherine Fay          Sound Design: Denis Clohessy

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Leonata in Rough Magic’s Much Ado (Credit: Rough Magic website)

Review: Macbeth at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum

Review: Macbeth at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Dublin, October 3rd-26th, 2018, directed by Geoff O’Keefe

Review by Ema Vyroubalová, Trinity College Dublin.

This was an engaging and fast-paced production, notable particularly for its rendering of the Witches, intriguing choices of doubling, tripling, and even quadrupling of roles, as well as an imaginatively conceived yet also very functional stage set. Because the play opens with the three Witches on stage, how a particular director chooses to portray this trio helps set the tone of the rest of the production. O’Keefe’s Witches were dressed in loose black garbs and hooded capes, designed to enable the actors to see but to prevent others from seeing their faces. The effect of these costumes (designed by Olga Criado Monleon) was quite eerie, especially as it gradually became clear to us in the audience, from the changing voices and the varying statures of the black-clad figures, that the roles of the witches in different scenes were being rotated among different actors. A look in the programme indeed reveals that five of the nine cast members play a witch at some point: Shane Quigley Murphy is both a Witch and Lennox; Andrew Kenny, Matthew O’Brien, and Ailbhe Cowley are triple-cast as Witch/Banquo/Doctor, Witch/Malcolm/Murderer, and Witch/Ross/Gentlewoman respectively; and Eanna Hardwicke gets to be Witch/Captain/Fleance/Young Siward. I suspect that the bundling of parts was to some extent prompted by budgetary constraints and/or availability of actors. But the unusual implementation of this bundling in regards to the Witches presents these figures as ubiquitous forces that not only shape the play’s events but that also somehow emanate from the world of the play’s human protagonists rather than from a separate supernatural realm.

It is worth noting that the production avoided the more common double-casting of Lady Macbeth with one of the Witches—likely because it would have implied the kind of too specific pre-emptive power dynamic between the human and the supernatural worlds this production sought to steer clear of. The Witches appeared as silent characters in a number of scenes where Shakespeare’s playscript does not call for their presence. They hovered in the background or foreground, watching the others’ actions or enacting inscrutable ceremonies around the cauldron (which stood at the front of the stage for the whole duration of the performance) and over a miniature replica of a semi-derelict medieval castle hall (or perhaps the nave of a church?) (which was located near the right-hand stage exit). As they did so, they periodically emerged out of dark corners of the set only to blend back into them. This underscored the witches’ omnipresence in a very physical way, by literally keeping at least one of them on stage for the majority of the show. A Witch thus watches as Duncan receives Macbeth to give him the good news of his newly gained title; a different Witch listens as Lady Macbeth reads out the fateful letter from her husband and then observes from the background the meeting between the Macbeths. The resulting integration of the Witches into virtually every moment of the play, whether through the overlapping in the casting of the majority of the roles or their insertions into most scenes as silent figures, ironically makes it very difficult to hypothesize about their roles in the play’s moral universe. They can be seen as representing everything, anything, and nothing at the same time—similar to how the dark void of the colour black results from absorbing all frequencies of light.

The remaining double and triple casting choices would seem to confirm this production’s refusal to locate the source of evil in the play somewhere in the triangle of usual suspects constituted by Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the Witches. Jed Murray plays both MacDuff and one of the Murderers while Damien Devaney plays Duncan, Porter, and Seyton. Only the roles of Macbeth (Neill Fleming) and his wife (Nichola Macevilly) are spared from this production’s love affair with doubling and trebling of roles, which ultimately emphasises the couple’s isolation and self-consuming despair. The set, designed by Gerard Bourke, creatively utilised the whole available space both vertically and horizontally as it included tree trunks, rocks, and caverns that the actors could variously position themselves on, in, or under. The set also featured a human skeleton and a partially burnt cadaver ominously suspended above the stage and periodically lit (lighting design by Kris Mooney) so as to cast shadows on the actors and actions below. I was a little disappointed by the elimination of many of the passages from the so-called Hecate scenes, especially since the witches and their ever-present cauldron otherwise play such a central role in this production. Another slight disappointment was the beheading of Macbeth’s corpse at the very end of the production, which prompted confused laughter from a portion of the audience as the special effect looked rather cheap and came across as almost comical, which did not appear to be the production’s intention.

Review by Ema Vyroubalová, Trinity College Dublin.

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Henry Fuseli’s 19th c. painting of the three witches

 

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]

“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.

 

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

The Sonnet Man presents Hip Hop Shakespeare to Ireland in 2017

International Hip Hop Artist, The Sonnet Man, is preparing to visit various cities in Ireland.  While in Ireland, The Sonnet Man is also scheduled to present performances and sonnet-writing workshops to schools in Cork, Kilkenny, Carlow, and Wexford (among others) perform school assemblies, beginning with a performance at the Wexford Arts Centre.  Due to the interest, The Sonnet Man is also offering schools, theatres, and other venues the chance to sign up to be a part of The Sonnet Man Ireland Tour.

The Sonnet Man is Devon Glover, a rapper, writer, artist, and teacher from Brooklyn, New York.  The Sonnet Man uses hip hop to put a unique spin on Shakespeare. He sets sonnets first to rap music, singing them as originally written. Then, he raps them again, but with his own unique interpretation on The Bard’s poetry in today’s spoken word.

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The Sonnet Man

On April 24, 2016The Sonnet Man performed a three and half hour Sonnet Marathon, organized by the Stratford Literary Festival. He recited all 154 of William Shakespeare’s famous Sonnets, in Hip Hop, to hundreds of fans in Stratford Upon Avon, to celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare at the Stratford Literary Festival.

In addition to his festival work over the last five years, The Sonnet Man has presented live shows, as well as school assemblies and workshops, to thousands of people across the world (Prague, Netherlands, Bermuda, Canada, United States, including performing Sonnet 18 live in Negril, Jamaica, and more). The Sonnet Man has also appeared on NBC’s The Today Show and MSNBC’s (former) Melissa Perry-Harris Show and has been profiled on MTV. He has been honored as the winner of the 2014 LA Times Festival of Books Inspirational Poetry Award and has had his music video, Hamlet by filmmaker Deborah Voorhees, chosen as an official selection in the 2015 Shakespeare Film Festival. A number of other performances and workshops, including a trip to UK, France, and more cities in Ireland, and a Sonnet Man documentary film are also to come.

The Sonnet Man is always looking for more venues to sign up for The Sonnet Man’s Ireland tour. For more information about, please contact: sonnetmannyc@gmail.com or check out The Sonnet Man online at www.SonnetMan.com and on iTunes.

Theatre: “The Incomplete Works” – Footsbarn at the Kilkenny Arts Festival

The world-renowned Footsbarn will visit the Kilkenny Arts Festival this August with a newly-created show to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The company describe The Incomplete Works as a Shakespearean cabaret filled with humour and gravitas, magic and humour, where anything is possible – a three-headed Shakespeare, an audition of male Juliets, a duel between two of the Bard’s greatest villains, and a giant apparition of the Dark Lady from the Sonnets.

Founded in Cornwall in 1971, Footsbarn’s name comes from its original rehearsal space (a barn belonging to the Foot family) and the company settled in central France in the early 1990s. Since its foundation, Footsbarn has produced over 60 plays and has performed around the globe, becoming Europe’s leading travelling theatre ensemble. Footsbarn’s past Shakespeare productions in Ireland include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1995), The Tempest (2005), Perchance To Dream (2005), and The Indian Tempest (2012), and this will be the company’s first visit to Kilkenny.

The Incomplete Works plays at the Kilkenny Arts Festival from August 5th-13th, 2016.

Tickets are available now from the Kilkenny Arts Festival website.