In Conversation ... Ben Barnes, Director of The Memory of Water

October 16, 2013

Ben Barnes, Director of The Memory of Water, in conversation with Niamh Honer, Marketing Manager of Civic Theatre, Tallaght, ahead of its performance in Civic Theatre earlier in October.
Interview taken from Theatre Royal Productions ... here ... 

The Memory of Water, by Shelagh Stephenson
Comes to Draíocht on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 November 8pm
Tickets: €18/€14 conc
Book by phone tel: 01-885 2622 or Book Online Here

NH: Can you tell us a bit about the play?

BB: Well its set in the North of England and is about three sisters who come together for their Mother’s funeral. It’s the classic situation where heightened emotions lead to scorching confrontations. It’s that rare thing- a play replete with hilarious comedy which manages at the same time to be thoroughly affecting and profound about things like the fallibility of memory. It has the most beautiful description of what its like to have Alzheimer’s disease and it’s a seriously good and well crafted play. It’s no wonder it won all the awards it did.

NH: How have rehearsals been going so far?

BB: This is a revival of our 2012 production so strictly speaking we are re-rehearsing the play. However, the role of Teresa, which was originally played by Tina Kellegher, is now played by Julia Lane. She is the only member of the cast who is actually from in and around where the play is set so that’s a great asset to the revival. And, of course, a new actor coming in to a key role makes us all re-examine the decisions we took when we first staged the play and that turns it into an exercise in re-invention rather than one of re-construction.

NH: How have you approached the sensitive subject of Alzheimer’s?

BB: Sensitivity I hope. The subject is mostly dealt with in the latter stages of the play when the eldest daughter has a conversation with her dead mother. The other sisters avoid the subject and because they are guilty about not visiting her as often as they might they minimise the extent of their mothers’ disorientation.


NH: What made you choose to direct this play?

BB: Well I scheduled the play for production a decade ago when I was Artistic Director at the Abbey and it was a rip roaring success there. I was very pleased it resonated with so many women particularly and I was a bit conflicted about the fact that I did not get a chance to stage it myself. Mark Lambert -who appeared in the original production and was friendly with Shelagh Stephenson the writer - did a brilliant job directing it on that occasion. I subsequently commissioned a play from Shelagh called Enlightenment which I did direct but I always wanted a go at directing The Memory of Water. However, you have to wait until the right actors come along and I knew that in Emily Nagle, Jenni Ledwell and Tina Kellegher (and now Julia Lane) that I had really accomplished actresses who could deliver in spades. Which they did and are doing again. It’s a joyful thing to behold actors at the top of their game taking something like this by the scruff of the neck. It’s a great mystery to me how Emily Nagle is not more appreciated than she is. Hers is a sensationally good performance among many fine performances. It’s a truism but directors can only be as good as the actors they are working with and I’m indebted to my six in this beautiful play.

NH: What has been the most challenging part of putting on the play?

BB: Pitching the English comedy which can be very black, droll and dead pan and very unlike Irish comedy. Fortunately I love Joe Orton who was a master of this type of humour and it may surprise you to hear me say that my life long love affair with the plays of Harold Pinter have been helpful in this regard also. It’s a great misconception about writers like Beckett and Pinter, perceived as difficult or enigmatic, who have, in fact, a wicked sense of humour.

NH: What should audiences expect from the play?

BB: An absolutely first rate night at the theatre with a play which is at turns funny and moving and full of insights memorably expressed. At the beginning of Act 2 the mother, Vi remarks that her children seem ungrateful and are focussed on all the things that were wrong about their childhood and what they didn’t have. Vi enumerates some of these things and then says “I remember the time of your childhood and it seems to me that you don’t remember it because you weren’t there-” A line and an observation like that is worth the price of admission on its own. Don’t you think?

The Memory of Water, by Shelagh Stephenson
Comes to Draíocht on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 November 8pm
Tickets: €18/€14 conc
Book by phone tel: 01-885 2622 or Book Online Here

Read more ... Here

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By Draíocht. Tags: Theatre,

Fly Me To The Moon - Review

October 3, 2013

Enjoy a review before coming to see the show in Draiocht next week, Wed 9 October, 8pm

"Telling the story of two bolschy careworkers; Francis Shields (Kate Tumelty) and Loretta Mackey (Tara Lynne O’ Neill), Fly Me to the Moon, revives the notion amongst its audience that it is okay to laugh at what is tragic ..."

Read Full Review HERE ... 

Book Tickets HERE ... 

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By Draíocht. Tags: Theatre,

Break - A review by Blogger Darragh Doyle

September 10, 2013

Break in 13 words by Darragh Doyle ... "Captivating, physical, sympathetic, pity invoking, challenging, perfectly cast, brilliantly performed believable tragicomedy. Wow." ...

Read Darragh's full review below ... 

I really liked this show.

Do you remember what age you were when you first realised your teachers were people and that what they did was "only" their job? I was probably 14 or 15 when it hit me first and I'd like to think it changed the way I dealt with them and made me give them a bit more respect. I'd like to think that. It's probably not true.

BREAK, as you'll read, is a staffroom show and presents a situation few of us would be able to deal with. What happens when something goes wrong at work? What happens when despite best intentions, what should happen doesn't happen? Can't happen? Are teachers the best people to deal with some things that happen? If not, who is?

Anyone who has seen 'I Alice I' or 'Eternal Rising of the Sun' will know Amy Conroy is a great writer and performer. In BREAK she has gathered other great performers and delivered one of the more realistic, intense and terrific shows I've seen in quite a while. She's made a staff room interesting and delivered a new insight into what teachers have to deal with. I found this play to be very well written, expertly cast and performed and very much one that gave me a different insight into a teacher's role.

There's laughter, romance, jealousy, frustration, shopping, screaming, fighting, kissing and more in the play - more than enough to satisfy the most demanding of audiences. There's a build up too to two events that you'll want to see happen, but will they? 

//"How in the name of God did it come to this? Unacceptable. Do you think this is reasonable at a time like this? Do you think I like having to come in and face this? Give out? I'm not paid enough for this. You're teachers for God's sake".//

There's clever staging in BREAK - the sounds of the schoolyard, the sound effects, the lighting all give the show a substantial feel. Simple dialogue introduce Jan, Jeff, John, Karl and Margaret/Mags who have to deal with Kelly, an external person brought in to deal with the third years after an event.

And so let's talk about Kelly, played by Elayne Harrington.

Those familiar with Temper-Mental MissElayneous will know she has a distinct, independent and forceful style of delivery and BREAK capitalises on this, delivering one of the most enthralling Irish characters on stage in ages. It's difficult to imagine anyone else playing the role and Elayne does it with an enviable comfort, almost ignoring the fact she's on stage at all. She was perfectly cast and acted expertly. She was, quite simply, great to watch.

Similarly all cast played their roles with credible and quite often personal details. Some I'd seen in roles before - Clare Barrett has a great knack of picking believable characters - and others I hadn't but I wrote "Perfectly cast" in my notes four times last night. They're delivering demanding performances and doing it well.

//"There are always kids that you don't like. Nobody prepares you for this. The ones who want you to like them but you can't".//

While a tragedy is at the heart of BREAK, there are many comic parts. Teachers - for who else could guffaw so loudly at the Croke Park reference - dotted the audience last night and were distinguishable by their knowing laughs, sighs and exclamations. It's not just for teachers though - anyone interested in what goes on for people dealing with teenagers should watch. 

See it for the laughs, for the buzz between Kelly and the teachers, for the build up to two revelations, for the pure laugh-out-loud moments and the divilment in the show. Bring a teacher if you know one. They'll love it too. 

Thanks Christine/HotForTheatre for the invite. Very much appreciated.
Darragh saw BREAK by HotForTheatre at Project Arts Centre.
Runs until Saturday 21 September 2013 in Project and then travels to Draiocht Blanchardstown for 2 shows, Friday Sept 27 and Saturday Sept 28, 8pm, Main Auditorium, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival on Tour. Tickets €16/€14 conc.

Book Here or phone Box Office 01-8852622

Break is written by Amy Conroy
Directed by Veronica Coburn
Lighting & Set Design by Paul Keogan
Cast includes: Clare Barrett, Amy Conroy, Elayne Harrington (Temper-Mental MissElayneous), Damien Devaney, Tom Lane and Mark Fitzgerald.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Theatre, Amy Conroy, Veronica Coburn,

Interview with Shaun Dunne - Death of the Tradesman

May 27, 2013

Interview with Shaun Dunne - Death of the Tradesman

Death of the Tradesmen plays Draiocht on Friday 7 & Saturday 8 June, 8.15pm. Tickets €16/€14 conc … Book Here

Caomhan Keane talks to Shaun Dunne about Death of the Tradesman, which returns, as part of The Lir Revival Award, this week.
Taken from

Tradesman seems like a natural follow on to the conversation you started with Homebird. Was that deliberate or just representative of you writing about what's going on in your own world?

Tradesmen is actually an older idea. I had the idea for Tradesmen when I was in school so the line of work kind of just came out that way. Homebird definitely represents the younger generation while Tradesmen covers our parents demographic. The progression may seem sort of planned or coordinated and its weird to think now that Tradesmen was actually conceived as an idea first... I suppose Homebird feels very like the beginning of everything for me.

Your plays seem like you are trying to work things out but haven't made a definitive opinion. Is that your process? Do you have a definite idea as to what you want to say when you start or are you informed by research and contemplation?

I think that's very much how I approach the subject initially, yeah. I don't like to come down too heavy on either side. The work is more about presenting a situation or a process than it is about giving an answer either way. I think that's more interesting and I don't want to preach what I think the answer to particular social issues are. A lot of the time there is no one way. Myself and my collaborators definitely come to our own realisations but we like to leave room in the shows for the audience to take the subject further.

Where did the idea for Tradesman come from?

My father is a carpet fitter who has been largely unemployed for the past five years. When I first read Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller in school, I remember thinking there were a lot of parallels there. Work wasn't as dry for him back then though so it was only when things got really bad that I started to think about the idea more seriously.

How did you develop it from the idea to get it stage ready?

I started with interviews. I sat down with several different tradesmen that an unemployment service called Jobcare put me in touch with. I also took part on their Employment Preparation Course, which helped me get in the mind frame of a person looking for work. After that I began to write. Then when we started to develop the show on its feet with Lauren Larkin and Talking Shop Ensemble we would improvise with the script. This helped to find a structure and really honed the editing of the piece. The show also benefited hugely from a residency I did called TITLE as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. I worked with dramaturg Thomas Conway and the piece really sped along after that.

Tell me how your director helped shape this project?

We didn't work with a director per say. When I approached Lauren and Talking Shop we discussed how the piece might be made and we all agreed that myself and Lauren would stage the piece together while Lisa Walsh and Aisling Byrne would co-choreograph. We also had the added outside eye of our second dramaturge, Aifric Ni Ruaric. We work as an ensemble so everybody has their say in some way across the board. This is the same for designers and stage management. Anyone in the room is encouraged to chip in where they want. It's a very open environment where suggestions and ideas come from all angles- at times this can make your day a little longer but it's how we like to work. There will be days that certain people take the lead in certain ways - the way a director would - and as the conceiver of the piece that can often fall with me but the emphasis on the ensemble is huge.

Was Lauren Larkin your first choice of wife?

First and only. Originally, I thought it was a one-man show and I didn't even imagine myself in it initially. The play has a documentary strand to it, which pulls from the fact that myself and Lauren are the children of tradesmen. If Lauren wasn't in the piece the piece would have to change.

Who, directly and influentially has shaped Talking Shop's style?

There are two styles at play when Talking Shop and Shaun Dunne present together. My main influence would be my degree in journalism - this is where the documentary strand comes from - while Lisa and Aisling from TSE are Theatre Studies alumni so their influences are from a completely different bag.

We both want to make work about what it is to live here and now though so we unite on that. The main influences in my writing would be my parents... they taught me how to speak after all... them and the people I grew up around.

What's next for you and the rest of Talking Shop?

Touring Tradesmen! We've got a few dates lined up in the coming year so we're going to be pretty tied up with that. We're also starting development on our next piece where we hope to explore service provision for people with disabilities in Ireland, and are beginning a collaboration with St John of Gods Community Services shortly so it's all go really!


Death of the Tradesmen plays Draiocht on Friday 7 & Saturday 8 June, 8.15pm. Tickets €16/€14 conc … Book Here …




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By Draíocht. Tags: Theatre,

Review of The Man in the Woman’s Shoes

May 13, 2013

Read more ... here ... 

Friday 17 & Saturday 18 May 2013, 8.15pm


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By Draíocht. Tags: Theatre,

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