Review // The Passion of The Playboy Riots at The Hen and Chickens Theatre

The Passion of The Playboy Riots Cast

The Passion of The Playboy Riots Cast

Review // The Passion of The Playboy Riots at The Hen and Chickens Theatre

2016, the centenary of the 1916 Rising, saw a spike in Irish historical plays here in London. Now in 2017, Neil Weatherall’s ‘The Passion of The Playboy Riots’ has been given the space it deserves to get noticed.

Running in The Hen and Chickens Theatre in Highbury, the play is set backstage at The Abbey Theatre and is centred around conversations between W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Padraig Pearse.
Starting on opening night of W.B Yeats’ Cathleen Ní Houlihan of 1902, we move to 1907 and J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World and finally to 1926 and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars.

A young Pearse is introduced, a barrister, trying to get Yeats to use some of his scripts. This is at a time when Yeats himself is surrounded by self doubt. As the play goes on through time, we see the relationship develop, with Pearse’s initial respect for Yeats changing into heated debate between the two about the future of Ireland. Yeats wanted theatre to spark a change in Ireland.

If you don’t know much about this era of history, Yeats quotes from the corn laws and this will get you up to speed with the background.

The staging is simple but works in this setting, using the dark curtain behind them as the curtain backstage at The Abbey, occasionally listening to the goings on that stage. Totally meta. Justin McKenna and Loclann O’Grady look remarkably like Pearse and Yeats which definitely adds to the piece. McKenna is particularly good, showing the changing in Pearse from the young barrister to future revolutionary. Cath Humphrys is very much at home as Lady Gregory.

At 50 minutes long, the script packs a lot in and it never droops. It also features some very witty one liners. And almost..almost does a Mrs Doyle, here, with whiskey. It is an Irish thing no matter what anyone says.

I really enjoyed the angle this piece took. We’ve seen films made set behind the scenes when making films. The Passion of the Playboy Riots takes that idea to the stage. A bigger stage and budget would take this to the next level.

This production is intelligent, witty, and educational. Got an hour to spare? Go check it out.

The Passion of The Playboy Riots runs at the Hen and Chickens in Highbury until July 8th.

Thanks to the director of the play, Neil Weatherall, for inviting me to the show.

Review // The Commitments at The Palace Theatre, London

TheCommitments

TheCommitments

Tuesday June 9 2015 –  *Contains spoilers*

I’ve never read the book but I do remember the first time I saw the film. I saw it in Navan, Co. Meath in the Lyric Cinema on Brewers Hill. At the time, many people could relate to it in Ireland. Unemployment was rife, it was pre-mobile phones, if you didn’t see your mates, you could always meet them down on the dole queue on a Tuesday. Alan Parker’s 1991 film captured it perfectly.

That’s the way Ireland was and The Commitments, combined with a fantastic soundtrack, summed what everyone felt. We all wanted to escape. Fast forward, twenty four years, I live in London and I go to see the stage show in The Palace Theatre.

Director Jamie Lloyd does pack a punch with his production and once the curtain raises, the first reaction is Wow! The ‘Barrytown’ high rise flats aka Ballymun (5 minutes walk from where I lived in D11 in Dublin) is recreated on stage in different levels. Different parts of the flats pull out to reveal the Rabbite household and the local pub are cleverly pushed back to create the square in the centre of all the flats. The Rabbitte household is really well executed with the front room, stairs and Jimmy’s bedroom all on show.

You can’t beat a bit of Dublin humour and The Commitments provides that. It’s impossible to recreate everything from a book or film and at the beginning of the show, it feels a little rushed to get to a certain point in the story by a certain time. But this adds to the comic feel. The laughs are there as well as the ‘Say it once, say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud’ line. I’m always going to compare this to the film, there’s no way around it. It’s a little disappointing that the love triangle / square between Joey the Lips and the three Commitmentettes isn’t drawn out a little more. Unfortunately this leads to Joey not being the smarmy git he is in the 1991 film. The authenticity of Dublin life is kept intact. The stage show remains true to Dubspeak in all it’s fucking glory.

But The Commitments is all about the music and it doesn’t fail to disappoint, although a couple of the big songs from the film are placed at the end of the stage show. If you like your soul music, you’ll be in heaven. It’s loud, it’s in your face and the energy from the stage is just electric. Heaven knows how they managed to do it eight times a week. Denis Grindel excels as the slightly cocky band manager, Jimmy Rabbitte. Brian Gilligan commands the stage with his vocal performance as front man and nutter, Deco. However, it’s a pity The Commitmentettes don’t get more time to shine, they’ve bloody good voices.

Overall it’s a great night’s entertainment, the set is fantastic and I couldn’t help but laugh my bag off at the ‘Heroine Kills’ banner in the community centre, ‘The Hot Press journalist’ and ‘Eejit Records’. These people are speaking in my tongue. It’s Dublin through and through, a little rough round the edges but ye love it to bits.

*Keep an eye out for ticket deals, we got ours for £20 each and our seats we upgraded when we got to the theatre. Nice work!

The Scottsboro Boys at The Garrick Theatre // Review

Scottsboro-Boys-feat

The-Scottsboro-BoysThe cast and crew have made their way from the Young Vic to the Garrick Theatre, London, for an extended run of their production of The Scottsboro Boys.

As the show starts, the cast come to the stage from the back of the theatre, running through the aisles, smiling, laughing, dancing. This immediately brings the audience into the story, it’s more than just watching the motion onstage.

Set in 1931, nine boys ride the railway in Alabama. A fight breaks out, the train stops in Scottsboro where the boys are accused of gang raping two white women. This may be an all singing all dancing production but it tackles the racial issues of the time head on.

The Scottsboro Boys tells the true story of how the nine were sentenced to death and of the court cases to prove their innocence. It also cleverly shows how what the nine went through helped changed the face of American and the world forever through the Civil Rights movement.

However serious the issues, there is an incredible amount of oneliners throughout the performance. There is one one female actor onstage throughout. The two ladies, the accusers, are fantastically portrayed by James T Lane and Dex Lee. As the story progresses, everything is held together by Mr Tambo, (Forrest McClendon) and Mr Bones, played by Olivier nominated Colman Domingo. Dress in over the top circus/clown attire the pair provide the humour and add commentary to the proceedings.

The set design is minimal but very effective. A mountain of chairs are transformed into a train, a jail cell, a court room, solitary confinement. This gives the dialogue, the music, the dancing, the time and space to shine. The cast of the show need to be highly commended, the work rate even in the first ten minutes is phenomonal, they just don’t stop singing, dancing, moving. Despite the sweat running down their faces, these guys have to be the fittest in London.

This is the last musical to be written by Kander and Ebb and it boasts some fantastic music moments but it’s not an easy watch. At times it is very frustrating. But that’s nothing to do with the direction, the staging, the acting, it’s to do how we have treated each other on this planet. As a white member of the audience, your scribe felt guilty and ashamed at times. Saying that, this is a definite must see. Educational and entertaining.

This review originally appeared here

We Will Rock You: Live at The O2 Dublin – Review

wewillrockyou

wewillrockyouWe Will Rock You : Live at The O2 Dublin – Thursday April 4th 2013

We all know the extensive appeal of the music of Queen but delivered in a musical format could it still pack a punch? We Will Rock You came for a visit to Dublin’s O2 and despite a ten year West End run and 12 million people attending the show, I still had my reservations.

The show is based in the future where Earth is now called the iPlanet. Rock n roll is outlawed, there are no instruments and all that exists are boy and girl bands. Underground believers, called ‘Bohemians’ believe that in the past there was a time when people made their own music, this era was called ‘The Rhapsody’. Step forward one brave soul who calls himself ‘Galileo Figaro’ who fires lyrics to fifties rock n roll songs out out of him. He hooks up with a nice girl, who is called, wait for it, ‘Scaramouche’. They battle against the Killer Queen, have to get to the Seven Seas of Rhye.. OK, you get the idea, it’s cheesy as hell.

Ben Elton’s script is a little bit ‘colour by numbers’. Good guy/Bad Guy, will the guy get the girl? Of the main leads, ‘Scaramouche’ gets all the sarky oneliners while ‘Galileo’ comes across as a little bit moany. There are indicators throughout, which give the impression that the script has been updated as the years have past, character names, song titles not long left the Top 40. The revolving sets were clever and gave a Mad Max vibe to the stage.

Musically, the first half of the show’s highlight was Scaramouche’s version of ‘Somebody to Love’. It really did take until halfway through the second act to really grab the attention despite the best efforts from the cast with audience interaction. It didn’t help that the venue was half full, desperately pointing out the need for a proper mid sized venue with a huge stage in the capital. A line or two of a Queen song, just isn’t enough, I was wanting more. And so it seemed that’s what the audience around me wanted too, to ‘Rock’ as the title suggests.

The introduction of the live band and the explosiveness of the finale of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, delivered what I had hoped from the entire show, but it was a little too late. I left a little disappointed, maybe what I wanted was a full live Queen set but then again, who really could even come close to filling Freddie’s shoes?

Guerilla Days in Ireland at The Olympia – Review

GuerillaDays

GuerillaDays

Guerilla Days in Ireland: The Olympia Theatre – April 2 2013

Adapted and directed by Neil Pearson, Guerilla Days in Ireland tells the story of Tom Barry, volunteer Commander of the 3rd West Cork Flying Column who became renowned for his military knowledge and guerilla warfare tactics.

The play takes is through a time in Irish history from 1926, when Barry was in the British Army as part of the Mesopotamia Expedition to coming home to Ireland in 1919, right up to the signing of the Treaty.

The story is cleverly told through the older Tom Barry (Brendan Conroy), reflecting on his life, while a younger Tom Barry (Brian Fenton) provides us with the flashback scenes, incorporated almost like a television show. Alongside Michael Grennell and Jack Walsh, who make up the entire cast, yes, just four people, clever onstage props and dips in lighting, change characters from soldiers, Black and Tans, a barman, Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins. Very cleverly done. The direction of how the characters move on stage must also be noted, the soldiers marching when suddenly they seem to move in slow motion, not one of them out of beat.

The set itself is made up of Barry’s desk in the foreground, where he is writing his story. In the background are crosses where clothing of dead compatriots are placed. The mid section of the stage, is taken up by what resembles two stone walls.

Through Barry writing his book, he looks back at the human decisions he’s made, regrets he’s had, not just military and how some of these decisions still niggle at him.

This play has obvious appeal for an Irish audience and diaspora around the world. If the history element isn’t your thing, there’s still so much to enjoy with the actors’ versatile performances and the direction of ‘Guerilla Days’. This is a definite must see.

Guerilla Days is on your around Ireland in April and May

Stage photo from guerilladays.com

Fancy joining a drama group? La Touche Players want you!

LaTouche_banner

It’s the time of year to throw yourself into something new! Why not get involved with a drama group? La Touche Players. I got this from La Touche Players and I thought I’d pass it on. If it’s something you’d like to try out why not head down to The Teachers Club on January 10th and see what’s going on?! They’re a nice bunch, I promise!

La Touche Players Members Night.docx