Synnott Vs. Kinevane: Dawn of Forgotten

This September, Pat Kinevane returned to the Droichead Arts Centre with Forgotten. The first in his trilogy of one-man shows, Forgotten is powerfully moving and disarmingly raw, as Kinevane leaves his audience in a state of both awe and awareness.

Kinevane plays four characters throughout the course of the play, each communicating their story to the audience through the means of a monologue. Each of the characters Kinevane portrays is intricately connected to the other three, and each has, for one reason or another, found themselves in a nursing home for the aged. From the senile farmer Florence, to the well-to-do dowager Dora, by way of stroke victim Gustus and aging biddy Epicuria, each character is fully drawn, brought vividly to life by Kinevane’s irrepressible charm. Kinevane develops a tangible rapport with the audience, building a connection throughout the performance, and it is this connection that makes Forgotten’s poignancy so effective. The disjointed nature of Forgotten’s storyline – each of the monologues is fractured, intertwining with the other three as Kinevane moves around the stage, assuming different parts – if anything only aids in creating the play’s whirlwind effect. One is left almost dazzled by the sheer detail and complexity of the piece, while simultaneously reeling from the piece’s visceral and raw presentation.

Kinevane’s natural comedic touch is of course present, along with a sense of downright pathos. In one segment, in which macra na feirme veteran Flor gets into an intense argument with an unseen nurse, the emotion Kinevane exposes gives a powerful blow to the gut. The constant shifting between this humour and despair is skillfully handled, with every moment – comic or otherwise – growing naturally and never feeling forced. It’s a credit to Kinevane’s range as a performer and Jim Culleton’s tight, superb direction,  that he can convey all of this alone on stage and one gets the feeling that while watching Forgotten  they are watching a master at work. As Kinevane darts around the stage laughing or crying (or at times both) one does not have to try hard to imagine the old man in a young body he is attempting to convey. Kinevane’s performance carries the entire show, and keeps the audience on  board even at the weaker points of the script, though these are few and far between. Pat’s humanity is undeniable and addictive, his presence on stage a joy to watch and his sheer versatility makes Forgotten the experience it is.

As with all of Kinevane’s oeuvre, the muted but all-encapsulating lighting and sound design are superb. Kinevane crafts another world onstage, drawing from a variety of influences to land somewhere between rural Ireland and oriental Japan. One character in particular, intensive care patient Gus, is vividly realised, and aided immensely by these technical elements as Kinevane employs an ingenious use of sound and staging. The use of colours – primarily black and red – give the show a sense of continuity and flow, somewhat countering the distorted structure. While the stage is all but bare, with only three chairs and some seemingly inconsequential props, Kinevane embraces this minimalism, filling the empty space with performance, and his trademark humanity. The stage never feels sparse or desolate, rather the force of Kinevane’s showmanship seems difficult to contain. At certain points he even leaves the stage, extending this constructed reality into the aisles of the auditorium and involving the audience further. The constant invention exhibited in Forgotten  makes it rich viewing, one can’t help but reflect further on the various elements of the show long after they’ve left the theatre.

The many movement pieces, some more abstract than others, that Kinevane performs throughout Forgotten, add a further layer to the piece. At many stages, Forgotten stops being a play and becomes a show. How much an audience member enjoys these sections will depend on how willing they are to abandon formal constraints entirely, but their inherent, almost subconscious power can’t be denied. It is thanks to these abstract movements that Forgotten takes on such a contemplative edge. Free from any restrictions Kinevane can fully let loose and tell his own story, a story told in indefinite but no less powerful terms. At the post-show talk for this showing an audience member noted that Kinevane’s performance was almost savant-like, and this is in a sense the perfect way to describe it. Kinevane, and Forgotten  as a whole, seems to exist in another dimension, on another plane, and it is here, at the farthest edges of reality that Forgotten truly comes into it’s own. It will undoubtedly be too far for some, and there are sections during which one longs for something to be grounded, but the overall product is successful in its goal: to get the audience thinking.

If Forgotten’s aim is to make people think, it certainly gives them food for thought. Kinevane has powerful things to say about our society, and in particular the way we treat our elderly. Forgotten manages to pass judgement on its audience while never alienating them and by virtue of being contained in such an enthralling production Kinevane’s message resonates all the better. Forgotten  is a poetic parable about our modern world, and with Kinevane’s genius at the helm, an unmissable theatrical experience.

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My Time in Droichead Youth Theatre

This week on the blog we have none other than Glen Mitchell bringing us on a journey. Specifically, the journey he set out on when he joined Droichead Youth Theatre three years ago!

 

I am eighteen years of age and verging on nineteen. I started Droichead Youth Theatre when I was fifteen years old, a lot has changed since then. I had friends from School (St.Joseph’s) and they were good friends and I wasn’t an unsociable person once I had gotten to know someone, however I’ll admit I was shy when it came to introductions. And so I wasn’t socially inept or a social champion, but due to my nature of personality (which I still hold to this day) I was an introvert and so didn’t mind being by myself in fact a lot of the time I preferred it and so when it came to going out with friends I would be down town sometimes for as little as two hours.

I was in TY in my school and our teachers had organised that Christina Matthews the Artistic Director of D.Y.T. come to the school and get all of us hard men to act, and so by the end of the class our shoulders were no longer squared and we had all taken the risk to look silly and enjoyed what we had experienced, I came away delighted with the minor performance my four man group had come up with. Later that evening I told my Elder brother Daniel about it and about Christina, “Christina Matthews?” he asked.

My Elder brother Daniel, the scoundrel and “wooer of women” in the family a confident and cocksure character throughout my life happened to mention he did drama with Christina when they were younger, when it had been run by a different woman. “Daniel doing drama?” I thought, this cool dude pranced around on stage? He told me about when he and some of “the boys” were part of Droichead Youth Theatre and had taken part in plays and I noted how he had said it helped him grow, take perspective and come in contact with a greater line of  thought. I took what my brother had said into thought, considering my social spectrum and an admitted lack of confidence I thought I should at least give it a try, “couldn’t hurt” I thought and so I arrived at the second week of the term at ten in the morning in the Barbican centre.

Christina was relieved to see me as she had expected me on the first week, and welcomed me into a room of about thirty other people, a daunting prospect for me in a room with thirty people I didn’t know and it was a bit awkward as we stood around in a circle beside one another. We were put to work immediately with warm up exercises and then games and team building exercises and by the end of the two hour session I had gotten acquainted with most people and left feeling completely  elated. Over the course of the next few weeks everyone got to know each other and at the end of two months or so we were going to make a play. I was scared. “Performing on stage” I thought, could I handle it? We prepared every Saturday, Sunday and Friday, other days as well if we could get them, and by the end of the two weeks or so we performed. It was a visual play along with acting, I had multiple minor roles and characters which suited me just fine I had plenty of involvement and nothing too major, I think “Around the World in Eighty Days” was the first play I did, performed in the Droichead Arts Centre in Drogheda town.

I found myself becoming a far more sociable person not only with people at drama but my friends from school and town I would spend morning till evening with them. Drama had a serious impact on my self esteem and social life and I am and have been far happier since I joined, it really has done wonders for me. The mental image I have for myself is a far better self image than what I had up until the age of fifteen, I have a great happiness about me and I know from conversations I have had with numerous friends that I make them feel good which I take a real pleasure in knowing. All of this because I joined a club of social interaction, one I was considering shrugging off even though I had taken a liking to it and so I say if you take a liking to something Drama or not pursue it, it’ll probably change your life, quite literally.

The interests I have now are still the same with some welcomed additions, some of the best times in my life among peers have been in Drama and the ones outside of it Drama contributed to. In and out of Drama I have great friends and being what I am now I can show them the love they deserve being the people they are and how important they are to me and together the happiness and self esteem they have given me. The numerous shows I have taken part in, both with major and minor roles have also given me a direction in life few people my age have when it comes to pursuing something they take a genuine interest in. I intend on doing a course on the other side of the country because of my experiences in D.Y.T. that I have full intention of making a career out of, large or small. I can’t tell the future, but I can tell you whether it works out or not I have discovered something I will have a passion for, for the rest of my life and the significance of Droichead Youth Theatre and its impact on me will stay with me forever.

Droichead Youth Theatre offers something no other hobby can. An experience in great arts and the higher line of thought that comes with it which I have taken pleasure in, but more importantly an experience of yourself. Admitted I probably sound like a bit of a snowflake right about now but it is a truth I discovered slowly over time and only realised very recently, I discovered a part of myself, coming from Metallica’s “Nothing else matters” to Luciano Pavarotti’s “Figaro” is quite a jump and although my tastes have stayed very much the same they have also changed drastically. Drogheda as a whole has an opportunity to nourish an increasingly popular art form among the Irish race with the youth of this town.

Whether you hear good or bad from this town, I have seen with my own eyes throughout my childhood and my teenage years that the youth in this town are good at their core and care deeply about ideas that involve the group, the community and that sense of community I have felt here my entire life, if nurtured could achieve a great cultural and artistic revolution in this town, because this entire nation has an enormous amount of potential but we’re lacking something, initiative. Whether you are a parent with children reading this or a young person yourself please spread the word and take some time out of your day to see one of our plays or look at our pages I guarantee you’ll be intrigued. And so when I tell you that D.Y.T. has a lot to offer the youth of this town and the town itself, take me at my word, after all isn’t that what we live and die by.

Seshers of Droichead: Or, What They Didn’t Teach You in SPHE

This week, Andy McLoughlin has been busy interviewing the cast of The Leaving and getting their perspective on drinking in Ireland in the run up to The Leaving, 2-4 September

We’ve all heard the story. You are a pure little teenager, full of potential and ambition for the future. The world is your oyster and you are the spunky little pearl in the centre. Until one day you fall in with “The Wrong Crowd”. You know The Wrong Crowd. Those unfavourable types who spend their time engaged in such deplorable activities as “wearing tracksuits” and “having fun”, instead of engaging in more enlightening middle class past-times such as memorizing test answers and developing anxiety disorders. It’s The Wrong Crowd who will introduce you to drink. And you’ll resist the temptation at first because you know that alcohol is the devil, until one day the sheer force of the peer pressure will overcome you and you begin your steady spiral into delinquency with your first drink.

Except no. After interviewing the other eleven cast members of The Leaving, a different story emerged. This is not a scientific study. I am literally just some lad who had a chat with eleven of his mates. It’s not a representative sample of society and for the love of Jesus please don’t treat any of this like it’s factual information. But it wouldn’t be fair either to say that I didn’t feel like I got any real insights as a result. So with that in mind, let me share some of what I found to be the most surprising things I discovered in my research, given what our secondary school teachers would have us believe…

  1. “Pressure” Rarely Has Anything To Do With It

This one is probably the biggest blind spot in the story we’re told. Not a single one of the people I interviewed told me they didn’t actually want to drink the first time they had it. In fact, for most people, it was barely a decision at all.

Someone handed me a warm can of Heineken. And it was disgusting. And I drank it. Because that’s what everyone else was doing… But it was a house party and I knew everyone there. So it was a fitting in thing, but it wasn’t as well. Because I wasn’t the only one there who’d never drunk at that party. Like my best friend hadn’t either. So it was nice because we both got drunk together… Off a can.

This is not exactly the tragic tale I described earlier. Apart from the fact that no one should ever have to drink warm Heineken that is. But at no point did anyone say “No I don’t want that” and wound up doing it anyway because they needed to fit in. The reality is people don’t see alcohol as a boogeyman. Why would they? It’s much harder to sell the “alcohol will ruin your life” story in a room full of people who are still living and breathing and doing the ChaCha Slide despite (or perhaps because of) the presence of alcohol in their lives.

And usually people don’t have too much trouble saying “no” either.

I think I- I knew it was happening somewhere in the world- a lot of places, but the friends I was with weren’t doing it, but the friends I like- I was like “ah hi, nice to see ye,” they were doing it… And I remember being like envious of that, but I also like- I remember thinking “oh this is a situation where I- I shouldn’t be” as well. Like I’m too young, I was always like “I’m too young for this. I have lots of time to be doing that.”

All that being said, when do decide not to drink it’s a different story.

…I’m eighteen, so people are like “oh so now you can start drinking” and I’m like “No. That doesn’t- that’s not what I mean, that’s not what the age means.” So now it’s like, now that I’m not drinking at eighteen, they’re like “well why?”

If there is an unspoken assumption that everyone who can drink should drink, then maybe we have a problem. But really, we need to get rid of this notion of “peer pressure” entirely, because in reality, it’s not peers that really affect people’s behaviour the most.

 

  1. Families are a much bigger factor than friends

Mam was grand about it. My dad was like- always kind of assuming that I was drinking and offering me drink and I was like “just let me be the way I am!” And my aunt was so bad, like always tryna- because she’d have been drinking blue WKD since she could walk like.

Of the people I talked to, only about half of them actually had their first full drink with their mates. The rest did it at a family event. That’s not to say that parents have total control over their kids behaviour- after all, the people who didn’t start drinking with their parents wound up drinking somewhere else eventually anyway. But it is a reminder of the obvious truth that we don’t choose our family, and so whatever messages we’re getting from them, we’re going to be getting for a long time.

I suppose- I think a lot of people’s drinking has a lot to do with their parents and what they watched growing up as well. Because I noticed that I’m very like my mam- when I drink, and my attitude towards it as well. And I’d notice that my friends are the same as their parents as well.  
During these interviews, I would rarely get the same answer to the same question twice. But the one thing I heard over and over again was that people wanted to be able to talk to their parents about alcohol. The more it was kept a secret, the less people felt safe, and the less they were able to actually talk about it.

Well, my dad would be strict, my mam would be more like “oh ok you’re going to a party, ok you can have one can” and I’m like “fine” and get myself like a shoulder as well… It means I don’t have to stay out all night or like, sleep in a ditch or something, like I can come home, they know I have drank like.

3) People drink because they want to.

This is huge. We have to stop thinking of drinking as some sort of affliction that strikes us when we’re young and continues to affect us until we die of liver disease at the age of thirty six. Even if you are of the opinion that all alcohol leads to is bad decisions, bad dancing, and bad sex, there’s still the reality that most people see drinking as some sort of solution to a problem. What is that problem? It depends. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the reasons given for drinking in the interviews:

A list of reasons why people drink:

  1. Makes them more sociable
  2. Lightens the mood
  3. Something to do with their hands
  4. Celebrate
  5. Forget their problems
  6. tolerate other people
  7. be themselves
  8. write

The point is, the decision to drink or not drink is almost always a calculation. And for the most part, people make that calculation pretty well. They’ve seen West Street on a Friday night, they know the risks. In reality, problems only really arise when alcohol becomes a factor in the decision about whether or not to drink alcohol. Like when your mate Steve is nine sheets to the wind, cross-eyed and stumbling over to the bar, declaring that what is needed at right this instant is another round of shots. At that point it’s a bit like going to Ronald McDonald for advice on healthy eating.

I did it more last year than I did this year, but drinking to write is definitely a thing… There’s a great quote by someone, I’m not sure who it is- I think it’s like, “write drunk, edit sober”. And that’s really true. Sometimes like- the thought processes you go through were not totally there… It’s something you can’t access and it’s like sometimes you can say “here’s a great poem I wrote, and I was drunk when I wrote it”. It’s just interesting to see.

2) Most Young Drinkers Have Pretty Healthy Attitudes Towards Drink

In last week’s blog I painted a very fire and brimstone image of younguns across the country getting hammered twenty four seven and having all the unprotected sex they can and “oh my god it’s killing us all!” Well that’s not completely fair. In reality well…

We were at a restaurant for my seventeenth and my mam was like to the waiters “If his friends wanna order…” because my friends are eighteen. They ordered. We went home and had some drinks and played Mario Kart- that literally shows our maturity emm- I don’t like- I don’t respect the whole thing of getting out to a field and getting smashed- I’m like, not into that.

When I asked people for their best memories of drinking, most people talked about sitting and chatting with mates. Not swinging out of chandeliers, or getting yipped on Class A’s or breaking into fire stations and pretending to be pole dancers.

Foo fighters last year. There’s one. We weren’t drunk, we just had like- someone passed round a naggin. And that was it for the entire day. And that was amazing. Like that was the best day ever…

And it’s not like drinking responsibly is something people never think about either…

And I think… some people just… go with it, in the same manner that they begin with, so they can’t handle it at first and sometimes they never learn to handle it while they’re drunk and they just act the same way the whole time. Some people learn to- some people learn to just be more cognisant when they’re drunk so they’ll learn to stop posting their feelings on like social media and Twitter or whatever. Or they’ll like, stop Snapchatting people and sending drunk texts and shit. It just depends on the person.

And it really does depend on the person. Because whenever I find myself looking for “the young person’s perspective”, I’ve hit the same wall every time. And it’s becoming clear about now that there’s one very good reason for that…

  1. There is no such thing as “the young person’s perspective”

You do find yourself more social and more sort of- easier to talk to and easier to talk to strangers and all that… I feel like being in normal life just as a- a wall and then- something disintegrates a little bit.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to drink to become more sociable. If you start doing that then you’re going to start doing that a lot more often, and then you’re gonna get a problem. Because it obviously does make you a lot more outgoing and then it’s just- if you become dependent on it then… you’re fucked.

I told a bit of a porky in my blog a few weeks ago when I said that this play was giving our perspective on drinking. It’s not. It’s just a reasonably good average of our perspectives.

In fact, most people’s answers had very little in common with each other at all. For every person who had their first drink with their parents, there was another who would never even let their parents know they were drinking. For every person who drinks to be more sociable there’s another who thinks that that’s a one way ticket to alcoholism. Everyone I interviewed had drunk alcohol before they turned eighteen, but that was basically the extent of their similarity.

So when you come see this play, remember that what you are getting is one perspective. And a fresh perspective will always be a useful thing. But it’s no substitute for a conversation. The play runs from tomorrow until Sunday, but let’s keep the conversation going after that. Sure we’ll make an evening of it. First round’s on me.

Until then, why not pass the time by booking a ticket to come see our show? It’s called The Leaving by Tom Swift, it’s on in The Droichead Arts Centre from September 2-4 and tickets are €9/€12. You can book tickets here: http://www.droichead.com/show/873557483 or by phoning this number: 041 983 3946 or by going to the box office at the Droichead Arts Centre.

If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol and would like to talk about it, here are some good places to do that: http://drinkhelp.ie/get-help/useful-links/

The Bigger Picture- The Leaving and Drinking

In the second of three blogs introducing us to the world of The Leaving, Andy McLoughlin is looking at what the research says about drinking- in Ireland, among young people, and how it affects our health and society. Sources at the bottom.

Ireland is in sort of a weird place with alcohol right now in that we’re sort of beginning to think that maybe it’s a problem (82% of us to be precise (1)), but we’re having a lot of trouble pinpointing exactly what it is that’s going wrong for us. The problem, it seems, is that alcohol is so ubiquitous that imagining Ireland without it seems impossible. And when something’s everywhere, it can be tempting to think of it as natural. And when something seems natural, it’s easy to imagine it as being good, or at least inevitable. So hopefully by looking at some actual statistics and information we can help ourselves see the wood for the trees a little bit when it comes to where our habits fit in with the rest of the world before we look at the version of the world Tom Swift shows us in The Leaving.

So let’s ask- is Ireland really that exceptional when it comes to drink? Answer: yes. (2)

Underage drinking in and of itself doesn’t seem to be such an Irish phenomenon. A survey of fifteen year olds in Europe found that in a majority of countries, 90% or more kids under the age of 16 had had a full drink of alcohol. The study also ranked different countries in Europe according to the prevalence of certain drinking habits. When it comes to having moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, Irish kids tend to come 4-6th, which is high, but by no means exceptional. But where we really excel is in binge drinking (that is the equivalent of three pints or more), particularly on a regular basis. When focusing on regular binge drinking in particular, Irish teenagers tend to come first or second, usually behind either Denmark or The Netherlands, and, in case you were wondering, about two or three in front of the UK and streets ahead of any of the statistics for the US. (2)

The health defects for young people are especially pronounced. Someone who starts drinking before they turn 15 is more likely to develop substance abuse problems, have risky sex (that is unprotected or non-consensual sex), get in drink-driving accidents, or get in an injury or start a fight than someone who starts to drink later (3). Alcohol is the leading contributory factor in fatal injuries and suicides, both of which disproportionately affect young people (4). At a time when people are exploring their sexuality for the first time, alcohol impairs our judgement, contributing to 50% of sexual assaults, and 90% of acquaintance rapes (5). For every risk that alcohol poses to an adult, those risks are compounded by the vulnerability of adolescence

Now I’m not saying alcohol is the devil or anything. There are some real and significant health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis as an adult (6). But we’re not talking about adults here. And we’re certainly not talking about moderate amounts. As far as I can see, it’s exactly this culture of binge drinking in adolescence that has led to alcohol being one of the biggest sources of preventable illness and death in Ireland (4). Anyone with a brain in this country can tell you that young people make dangerous and unhealthy decisions when they’re binge drinking, but what’s more insidious is the effect that underage drinking continues to have on people as they mature into adults. 40% of people who begin drinking before they are 15 later go on to have what can be described as alcoholic behaviours (3). There is also a growing body of evidence that teen drinking has serious and permanent detrimental effects on brain development (3). For each of these patterns, the earlier you start, the more pronounced the effect (3). The majority of health problems caused by alcohol are found in adults, but until we can admit that the roots of those problems are found in adolescence, alcohol is just going to keep on killing us.

 

Now I’ve just given you a lot of scary statistics, and I do think that underage binge drinking should be given attention as the health issue that it is. But there’s only so much that can be captured by statistics. In the case of alcohol it happens that those things which are the easiest to measure and quantify are also the things that go on hospital and criminal records. What is almost impossible to get data on is just how often people drink and nothing out of the ordinary happens at all beyond a general feeling of happiness, followed the morning after by a general feeling of uneasiness. It really is quite a small minority of people who have a problem with drinking (7). But the data also doesn’t capture the outward ripples of torment that minority creates for those they are closest to (personally and geographically). So really any picture I can paint using only statistics is going to be incomplete.

To get a real idea of the mindset that makes Irish youth so unique, there’s no better way than going straight to the source. So we decided to conduct a series of interviews with your friends and children about their time as juvenile delinquents. These interviews will be released over the course of the next week and a half, and we hope they can be of some use in starting a conversation around alcohol. Next week we’ll have a blog reflecting on the findings of those interviews, so stay tuned.

 

  1. Public attitudes to alcohol in Ireland, a recent survey- Drugnet Ireland http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/11256/
  2. Alcohol and other drug use among students in 35 European Countries- ESPAD http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/5188/
  3. Surgeon General’s Call To Action to Prevent And Reduce Underage Drinking http://camy.org/_docs/resources/fact-sheets/Call_To_Action.pdf
  4. Alcohol related harm in Ireland https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/publications/hospitals/Alcohol_Related_Harm_in_Ireland.html
  5. Sex & Alcohol- Sexplanations https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yuMDqVs39I
  6. Booze Isn’t All Bad- Healthcare Triage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIEJvsDakj4
  7. Overtreating Kids, and the Shocking Truth About Alcohol in the US: Healthcare Triage News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w_mp925s6M


Droichead Youth Theatre Presents- The Leaving by Tom Swift

 

It’s a play about teen drinking. It’s about sexuality and family and loss and uncertainty too. But it’s mostly about teen drinking. Binge drinking specifically. You know binge drinking. You do it in your teens and then it becomes legal and you grow out of it after a few years. Or you don’t. Anyway, it’s been around for a few years and it’s not going away any time soon, so we thought we might do a wee play about it. It’s ok though, it’s a funny one. There’s dancing and strobe lights and video and Jack Rogers and all those magical things you usually like from us. The actors are really getting into their roles now and we’ve tricked some proper professionals into doing lighting and set and film with us, so it really is shaping up to be something special.

 

But we will be talking about teen drinking. And it may lead to some awkward conversations. In fact, I personally won’t be happy with the production unless it does. Because underage binge drinking is our big open secret in this country. There’s so much tacit acceptance of its prevalence that it’s easy to forget that no one ever actually comes straight out and talks about it in public (such is the Irish way). The kids all know it’s illegal and the adults don’t want to seem like hypocrites, so silence is the equilibrium. It’s the threat of mutually assured embarrassment that’s keeping us from talking.

 

So fuck it. We’re going to talk about it. And maybe we’ll all decide that actually it’s all fine, and it’s ok if we’re a little bit addicted to poison if it helps us talk to people we think are sexy. Or maybe we’ll all agree that yes we drink too much too often and yes it’s a problem, but there’s nothing we can do about it and after all it’s a part of our culture, like leprechauns or emotional incompetence. Or maybe we’ll stop hiding behind excuses and actually change our behaviour. Who knows? Here at DYT, we have a tendency to make a lot of plays about “society”, but strangely this isn’t really one of them. This is more a play about us. Literally us twenty or so people involved in the production. This is our story, our perspective, and if we can start by being honest about ourselves, then maybe you can meet us halfway and be honest about yourself too.

 

If we have one request of you it’s this: please don’t imagine you’re an expert before you’ve seen what we have to show you. Small children aren’t allowed come see this show, so presumably the vast majority of you will have some significant experience in dealing with copious amounts of alcohol, and you’ve probably learned many valuable lessons along the way. But that’s your experience. It can’t account for the myriad different ways that people’s lives and attitudes and beliefs have been altered by this substance, only one of which is actually portrayed in this play. We’re not experts either, so we’re going to try our best not to preach, or tell you how to live your life, or make you feel guilty, but we are going to try and show you our side of the story. And maybe, once we’ve told you a bit about that thing we’re not supposed to talk about, and we know you’ve all listened, then we can start to have a conversation. Because right now that doesn’t seem to be happening. So let’s try to get off on the right foot, ok?

 

First though, we’ll need to try and get some grounding in reality. So next week, I’ll be going over some of the research into who drinks, why and how it affects us. You can bear all that in mind the week after when we’ll start posting interviews with your friends and children about their time as binge drinkers.

 

Until then, why not pass the time by booking a ticket to come see our show? It’s called The Leaving by Tom Swift, it’s on in The Droichead Arts Centre from September 2-4 and tickets are €9/€12. You can book tickets here: http://www.droichead.com/show/873557483 or by phoning this number: 041 983 3946 or by going to the box office at the Droichead Arts Centre.

 

If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol and would like to talk about it, here are some good places to do that: http://drinkhelp.ie/get-help/useful-links/

 

Cheers,

Andy McLoughlin

 

Glitch: a review by Daniel Duma

This week we have Daniel Duma giving us his account of Calipo Theatre Company’s recent production Glitch in the Droichead Art Centre.

So let’s start from the start. You come into Stockwell Theatre, ordinarily quite a small stage, covered from most sides by foreboding black curtains to disguise the sacrilege of immersion-breaking props from the innocent eyes of novice theatre-goers. Since nearly every good play in existence necessitates this use of space, you rather appropriately expect the small stage to appear as such. However, the first initial shock of this showing of ‘Glitch’ hits you: The curtains aren’t used. In fact, as someone who routinely sees play at this theatre, it actually threw me for the longest time that no curtains were there. This helps create a more open space with a non-constricting atmosphere. (I will tell you in detail why that is such a genius move later on, but know that it is definitely so).

The next thing that hit me even before ‘Glitch’ began was the initial set design. It was very much minimalist, with the lighting being almost entirely restricted to vertical white lines, with one starkly showing itself in red. Tucked in the back of the stage but still sitting centre was a single chair, to be occupied by one half of the cast. On stage right (which is how the audience sees it, for those who inevitably forget it after a few hours) was where the main amount of props were focused: a single desk with accompanying chair, lamp and coffee mug. Thanks to the obvious lack of a computer, it’s clear that whoever owns this area is not working in the traditional sense of the word. All this minimalist set design ties directly into the main plot and themes of ‘Glitch’: what the explosion of mass communication has led to society becoming.

Michael Adams is a radio host, specifically of 103.2 DBR. Many shows have gimmicks, and his is that ‘it’s the show where you can say what you want’, regardless of how you say it. Things for him have been making that steady downward decline that a sitcom has when it dies a peaceful death due to losing ratings. He hit it big in double-digit years past, but now he isn’t so big. That is, until Jessie calls. She’s a single nurse with two children struggling to make it through life, who calls for reasons not fully revealed until the end of the play. After an extremely heated potential PR disaster which is successfully averted in a discussion with Jessie, the power in the area around Mike’s station crashes. Everything is brought back online with but a small amount of dead air… except for the station’s ability to receive calls. And in what seems to be a rather cruel twist of irony, the only person Mike can talk to now is Jessie. The conversation between the two makes up the remainder of the play and is one where Mike finally learns to listen and acknowledge his slow downfall.

Now here comes that genius explanation that I promised in the first paragraph: The stage is free because like the current state of 103.2 BDR, there isn’t anything to clutter it up. No aggressive amounts of callers, no ridiculous and overblown arguments, and no Mike shouting over everyone else to keep everything calm and comprehensible for the listeners. Instead it’s just him and Jessie talking to each other in probably the most honest way I’ve seen for a good while. It’s also not all doom and gloom about the world; there are humorous moments peppered lightly throughout the script, like the story of a Dublin Northside woman taking all three of her children to the emergency room because one had a fever and getting Calpol prescribed from a doctor to the sad (and sadly known) issue of marriages lost to the ravages of Facebook and Internet friends, the mood swings are all over the place. In a good way, of course.

The thing that likely impressed me the most, however, was the sound design. ‘Glitch’ opens with audio recordings that are… well, glitched out. Whether it’s the pitch, speed of the voice or a bit of vinyl-esque repetition, all sorts of distortive techniques make the intro if not fully innovative then most certainly memorable. The radio callers all have various levels of sound quality associated with them and it’s all very well timed with Mike’s lines to boot. When Jessie enters the conversation there is a subtle but simultaneously noticeable transition between potato quality to ‘oh-wait-she’s-actually-there-on-stage’ levels of audio comprehensibility which brings in our other cast member to the stage extremely well.

If I had any complaint, it’d be that even with the minimalist set design, nothing much is done with the stage aside from the characters’ bodies existing there. I personally would sacrifice the visual part of the play with even better audio production if I could. But ultimately, it’s a minor complaint after all the praise that I just heaped on this play in the previous paragraphs. ‘Glitch’ is a great play which is totally worth getting the chance to see someday.

 

Underneath It All

It’s been so long. Have you missed us? We’ve missed you. But we’re back- for now anyway- with a bumper blog from dynamic duo Andy McLoughlin and Jack Synnott reviewing Underneath by Pat Kinevane. Our members were treated to the performance and a post show talk a few weeks ago and we’ve had so much to say that we had to split up the labour between Andy (AM) writing on themes and plot and Jack (JS) writing about the production. Enjoy!

AM: As a play, Underneath is, in a word, layered- which, I suppose, makes a lot of sense given its title. From its very first moments, we are shown that a surface level reading is not going to be enough. Jack will go into more detail about the sheer grandeur that we are presented with in the first moments of the play, but it’ll suffice to say that those first few seconds give a very strong first impression. “Oh Jesus”, the audience thinks. “This is going to be one of those art plays, isn’t it? The ones where no one says anything and we’re supposed to figure out the plot ourselves.” And then, the actor opens his mouth, and out comes the very first line of the play in a high pitched cork accent: “Ye never know what’s around the corner, do ye?” And for the entire rest of the play, this is completely true. In every facet, from moment to moment, from character to character, from script to costume to direction, this play defies both categorisation and simplification. We have to look closer, we have to ask what’s underneath.

 

JS Walking into the theatre, the audience is introduced to a completely open stage. All curtains have been removed, leaving behind a space that, much like Underneath’s protagonist, is laid bare for all to see. In place of the usual ornamentation that regularly adorns the stage of the Droichead Arts Centre, a single, lavish gold curtain is draped from the ceiling. Beside this sits an elegant but dishevelled chaise, while various gold clad items, from RTE Guides to lamp shades are littered around the stage’s floor. From the central chaise, accompanied by aggressive, almost tribal music, rises a slow-moving, sluggish and sinister figure. She is dressed entirely in black, with face and hands painted to match this motif, across her face is a literal explosion of gold face paints, which will later take on an unnerving significance, and pulled around her shoulders is a holed, rag-like shawl. As this lurking figure greets them, the audience are reminded of a monstrous being, as our heroine initially invokes terror rather than sympathy. But this is all soon to change. The aforementioned, darkly humorous opening line offers an immediate juxtaposition, the ilk of which will be seen again countless times throughout the play. Underneath starts as it means to go on, balancing humour and horror, laughter and tears, and ultimately, beauty and ugliness to masterful effect. The blinding lights, jarring score and ominous set dressing are instrumental in achieving this delicate balancing act, but it is truly Pat Kinevane’s solo performance that brings this indescribable contradiction to life.

 

AM: The play’s basic premise is that as a young girl, our nameless protagonist was struck by lightning in such a way as to leave her appearing huge and intimidating, in complete contrast with her self-effacing, playful personality. Under normal circumstances, this contrast between appearance and reality could be alienating. But between Kinevane’s interaction with the audience and his character’s almost painfully endearing sense of humour, we are forced again and again to acknowledge the humanity of this strange character. The rest of the characters in this play can more or less be divided up between those who are willing to look past the appearance of this person and those who aren’t. It’s this constant conflict between the play’s intimidating aesthetic and charming writing that makes Underneath so compelling.

 

JS: Kinevane’s heartfelt performance undoubtedly highlights Underneath’s fascinating internal conflict. Throughout the course of the play, Kinevane bounces around the stage, occupying every corner and bringing an insatiable energy and, above all, genuine humanity to this innocent-but-damned character. The decision to play the part gender blind, with the male Kinevane playing a female character, if anything aids in this portrayal of hidden beauty, with Kinevane’s broad, manly figure only accentuating the compassion and affection of our heroine. As a one man show, this play could easily push Kinevane to his performance limits, but he appears to rise to this challenge without ever breaking a sweat. Skillfully guided by director Jim Culleton, Kinevane never fails to hit exactly the right notes, whether making acerbic quips about Charles and Camilla or portraying the powerfully unleashing of years of accumulated anger, his performance is always captivating, thrilling to watch and endlessly tugs at the heartstrings. One does not have to look far to understand why Kinevane is world renowned for his craft.

 

AM: As the play progresses, the undertones of social commentary become more and more pronounced as we are asked to look past the events of the play to the ways in which society seals the destiny of our protagonist. Whereas she is outcast and impoverished from an early age and remains that way throughout, the romantic interest and eventual antagonist of the play who serves as her foil is born handsome and wealthy (he’s descended from English landlords who exploited the Irish poor), and it seems he’s destined to live a long and happy life, no matter what he does to the people around him. Of course, Underneath being the play it is, things are never quite that simple, and when it comes to the destinies of these characters, you never do quite know what’s around the corner. The entire play is riddled with this kind of uncertainty, and for every action there is some greater force beneath the surface, personal or societal, controlling that behaviour.

 

JS: The use of sound throughout the play gives it yet another layer, both literal and metaphysical. When we witness the faithful tragedy which leaves Kinevane’s protagonist so outwardly scarred, the pre-recorded sounds blend unnervingly with Kinevane’s own pagan-esque wails, forming a dissonant cacophony invoking nothing less than sheer terror. Throughout the play, and in particular at the most dramatic moments, a wind-like, unnatural sound jolts the viewer into attention, our protagonist assures us that this is simply the sound of mortal souls being torn between the realms. Through this disturbing and distinctly unmusical use of sound, and the internal mythology attached to it, the play is given an almost claustrophobic atmosphere. Kinevane is alone on stage for the duration of the play, but thanks to this skilful employment of sound effects it feels as though another character, another consciousness is present. The audience finds themselves believing that something unpleasant is always there to face down our friendly protagonist, that darkness is swamping this theatrical experience. In a similar vein, music is used to powerful effect in Underneath. Whether it’s a rhapsodic hymn on the nature of beauty (or society’s idea of it) or a late-night banger at a Dublin disco, the original compositions throughout the play have a guttural, non-linear quality, once again sending the audience’s nerves on edge and emphasising the uncertainty the play seeks to highlight. This becomes even more overwhelming when coupled with the play’s lighting effects, which are nothing short of astounding. Spotlights follow Kinevane around the stage, picking up every hidden thing, every secret that lurks in his path. The contrast between light and shade on stage changes constantly, perhaps symbolising the flippant movement of the line between beautiful and horrific and when it comes to the nightclub scene, as the nameless character finally accepts her inner beauty and dances to her heart’s content, one can clearly witness magic happening on stage. It is not often that one experiences a theatrical treat as vibrant, as depthful, as tender and as terrifying as Underneath, the magic of which,  found both in what is mundane and extraordinary, linger in the mind long after the lights have stopped shining.

 

AM: Full disclosure, at points in this review, we may have been a little bit more than fair in our praise for this play. The reason for this is that writer/performer Pat Kinevane gave a post-show for the youth theatre, and it’s safe to say we fell in love with him. In his response to almost all the questions he graciously answered for us, he seemed to have one message he wanted us to take home: stay true to your artistic sensibilities. There are people who would rather pretend they can make sense of every facet of a Beckett play than admit that they enjoy the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on. If this mistake sounds familiar it’s because it’s what I’ve been doing for this entire essay. In its two hours Underneath plunges the depths of love and beauty and class and destiny and for all we can say about the production in 1,500 words or less, this play serves a reminder that it can never be enough. Many people walked out of the theatre not minding that they weren’t able in those two hours to unpick all the thoughts that Kinevane had spent weeks and months writing down, and I think that’s ok. If it was compelling and emotive and it made them see the world in a different light, then it appealed to their artistic sensibilities on a different level. But if there’s one message I took home from this play, it’s that we need to remember- with art as with people- that if we want to do justice to what we are shown by others, we must stop to look closer, to think past our first impressions, to find the hidden depth of meaning, underneath it all.