Posts Tagged ‘The Abbey Theatre’

Review: The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey

19 August 2010

Contributed by John Gibney

The Plough and the Stars is back on at the Abbey. And why not?

It is hard not to mention it without thinking of the controversy that greeted it in 1926. But does that mean it is actually any good? It is the longest and most expansive of Sean O’Casey’s three Dublin plays, in dramatic and thematic terms, and crucially, it is the most verbose. But the Abbey pulls it off. This is a very impressive production of a notoriously acerbic play. For those who did their Leaving Cert at the wrong time, it is set in a tenement, a pub, and a tenement again, before, during and after the Easter Rising. And that is about it. The Plough does not have a plot so much as points to make. What gives its stature as a classic is that O’Casey made those points through characters rather than caricatures. What makes this production stand out is that the actors do justice to those characters. The first half is an excellent and hugely entertaining display of ensemble acting (either that or I should get out more), with Joe Hanley’s Fluther Good stealing the show by a country mile. Abbey actors are unlikely to live in tenements, so some of the accents do wobble. But in a world where depictions of Dublin’s working class and unemployed all too often turn into patronising caricatures, we can let the national theatre off the hook here. Read more

Pue’s Recommendations for August

2 August 2010

Juliana Adelman The IFI are showing a bunch of old Jack Nicholson films this month, including two of my absolute favourites: Chinatown and Five Easy Pieces.  We tend to think of Nicholson as playing variations on eccentric old man, he is neither in these films.  And I think he actually plays the piano that well in real life.  I am currently engrossed in Being Human by Roger Smith, which is essentially an argument for the importance of historical understandings (as opposed to biological) of what a human is.  I think it’s a must read for all historians.  Sticking to humans, the current exhibition in the Science Gallery has nothing to do with history, but is really worth a visit.  BIORHYTHM explores the relationship between music and the body.  Finally, I am enjoying BBC 2’s Victorian Pharmacy on Thursday nights from 9 to 10.  Yes, as the review in the Guardian complained, it’s not very realistic since they can’t give people opium or poison them, but still pretty interesting.

Lisa Marie Griffith I had my niece in Dublin for the day recently (honestly that’s my excuse) and took her on the Viking Splash Tour. If you have been to Dublin you will have seen the yellow DUKWs (Amphibious World War II Vehicles) filled with kids and adults a like driving around the city shouting (a Viking roar) at unsuspecting Celts, ie anyone unlucky enough to be holding a map or a cup of coffee.  The DUKW enters the Grand Canal basin and the guide gave a wonderful tour of the area, the old canal and the background to the DUKWs. The IFI is showing ‘Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky’ from 6 August, an adaptation of a novel which deals with Chanel’s affair with the Russian composer. While not based completely on factual events it promises beautiful clothes from the early twentieth century which is enough to make me happy! If like me you have a weakness for beautiful clothes, particularly vintage pieces, then check out the Sartorialist for the month of May. The fashion blogger invited his readers to send in old fashion pics of families and friends and while procrastinating and catching up on my blogs I spotted them today. They are well worth a look and particularly strong with some beautiful pictures from the 40s and 50s, he also has some gorgeous shop fronts.

Tina Morin This August is a time of family gatherings, weddings, and much-anticipated visits from friends, two of whom arrive this week in advance of a wedding we’re all attending at the weekend. My husband and I plan to take these friends, one of whom is from the US, on a whirlwind tour of Belfast and the north coast, with necessary call-ins at Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, in addition to the near-obligatory murals tour in Belfast. If we have time, it’d be great to head south and bring our visitors to The Abbey Theatre’s current production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, which runs until 25 September. As we do all this sightseeing, I’m going to be sure to drop in copious literary tidbits whenever and however I can, on the back of the dismaying article in last weekend’s Irish Times: ‘If ever you go to Dublin town’. In it, writer Rosita Boland reveals the shocking ignorance about Irish literature and writing displayed by visitors, heritage-seekers, and residents alike. For a literary critic and a personal fan of Irish literature in all of its guises, the article is a heartrending read and, (to be a tad melodramatic about it), a real call to arms.

Kevin O’Sullivan You have to love Ireland, don’t you? On holidays in the midst of a dour World Cup, we caught the last two minutes of Holland v Brazil on a tiny, snowy screen in the ‘airport’ on Inis Mór, right before the attendant, with the words ‘watch this video’, switched over to the safety instructions and headed out to the runway to prepare our eight-seater (including the captain) plane for take-off. This month Aer Arann celebrates forty years of ‘seat of the pants flying’ to the islands from Indreabhán. If you get the chance, and can stomach the ten-minute trip, it’s well worth heading out to see Dún Aonghasa, Dún Eochla, and some beautiful beaches. Beats taking the boat any day. And while you’re on the west coast, keep an eye out for a couple of other ‘new’ attractions that we came across in July: Bonane Heritage Park near Kenmare, which opened in 2005; and Doolin Cave, home of a 7.3m stalactite, whose new visitor centre opened last month. The cave is a little pricey, but the experience will make it all the easier to head back into your local autumn-darkened library. Finally, if heading back to the library needs any selling, have a look at this great video that I came across last month (via Notes from the Field).

Pue’s Recommendations for March

1 March 2010

Juliana Adelman Having already confessed my secret love of taxidermy I can recommend Amy Stein’s photography, which uses taxidermied animals to stage scenes, without fear.  And I can admit that yes, my mother showed them to me!  An interesting perspective on the increasing presence of wildlife in American cities and suburban areas.  Continuing in the animal vein, an email list that I belong to circulated details of a radio programme on the raising of a chimpanzee as a child by a psychologist and his wife starting in the 1960s.  This is absolutely amazing weirdness from so many angles.  The programme was created by WNYC Radiolab, and part of it was aired on This American Life, my absolute favourite show which I sorely miss listening to on an actual radio.

Lisa-Marie Griffith During a session at the Dublin Writer’s Festival this summer one of the chairs said she believed fictional accounts of historical periods could bring us closer to an event then historical narratives. At the time I remembered feeling appalled at such a simplistic view of what historians do but considering the detail in some fiction like Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall I have been thinking about this a lot more and I am becoming increasingly curious about fictional accounts of historical events. I have just finished Peter Carey‘s Parrot and Olivier in America, a ‘reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous journey’. The book is worth picking up for the beautiful cover alone, a french engraving from the early nineteenth century and featured above.  I tutor American history and to my shame I have not yet read de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America so this has pushed me to finally open a copy.  I am interested to see how Carey’s ‘imaginings’ of de Tocqueville fare when compared with the historical figure. I have added to my long list of reading for this month Alexis de Tocqueville; Prophet of democracy in the age of revolution by Hugh Brogan. If I manage all of this reading I hope to write a post on my observations. Perhaps though my curiosity of these books is because I am trying to justify my lost hours away from my own work… This brings me to my next recommendation- The Dublin Book Festival takes place in Dublin City Hall 6-8 March. There are some very interesting sessions but ones you may be especially interested in are ‘Rewriting Ireland’s rebel history’, ‘Possibilities, partnerships and publishing in the digital age’ ‘The Google Book Settlement- where to now?’.

Christina Morin This month, I’m really looking forward to finally making it to the Linen Hall Library’s current exhibition, Burns and Burnsiana. With an extensive Burns collection acquired from Andrew Gibson and Burns’ own great-granddaughter, Eliza Everitt, the Linen Hall Library is in a perfect position to highlight Burns’ life and literature. A major focal point of the exhibit will be a 1787 Belfast edition of Burns’ first collection – the first to be published outside of Scotland. The exhibition runs until 20 March. And, in keeping with Lisa’s Dublin Book Festival recommendation, I’m hoping to head to Dublin for 10-11 March for The Abbey Theatre’s Reading Yeats programme, which will present public readings of two of Yeats’ plays: Cathleen Ní Houlihan and On Baile’s Strand. On my way to Dublin, I might brush up on my Yeats with Terence Brown‘s much-lauded critical biography, The Life of W.B. Yeats.

Kevin O’Sullivan Every time I sit down to write these recommendations, one thing comes into my head without fail: the Jesse’s Diets sketch from The Fast Show. In that spirit, this month I have been mostly reading environmental history. In the aftermath of the big freeze (remember that?), I took to belatedly reading David Dickson’s brilliant Arctic Ireland: The Extraordinary Story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41. Which fitted rather nicely with another book I’ve been reading over the past few weeks: Sara Wheeler’s refreshingly unsentimental travelogue/history/geography of the peoples above the tree line, The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle. And, since I’ve been on a (not always kept) single-person crusade for the past fifteen years or so not to eat certain types of over-caught fish, I thought it rude not to pick up Mark Kurlansky’s fascinating Cod: A biography of the fish that changed the world when I saw it on sale in my friendly bookstore. Want to know how the Basques ‘discovered’ North America, why certain town names in England end in ‘-wich’ or the details of the Anglo-Icelandic cod wars? Read this book.