Archiv der Kategorie: English

The Long Journey Home

Phillip McMahon: Come On Home, Abbey Theatre (Peacock Stage), Dublin (Director: Rachel O’Riordan)

By Sascha Krieger

Home is a drab  living room. Shabby wall-paper, a well-worn armchair, an old sofa (set design: Colin Richmond). The light is always somewhat on the dim side. In the middle of the room: a coffin. The lady of the house has died, time for her disgraced gay son, a former seminarian thrown out of his education and then his home to return after 20 or so years. This is the setting of Phillip McMahon’s new play, produced on the Abbey’s Peacock stage by director Rachel O’Riordan. The sense and meaning of home has been at the heart of Irish theatre since it was created as a concept as part of the re-awakening of the idea of an Irish nation around the beginning of the last century – a process the creation of the Abbey was a key part of, by the way. Home is where the corpses are, the skeletons in the closet or in plain sight. Collective or personal, the past always seems present when Ireland is trying to find out who she is. May playwrights have wrestled with those demons, the ghosts of an insecure and repressive society, a religious dictatorship , a stifling authoritarian molarity driving generations away. Recently, Ireland has opened: marriage equality, abortion rights, attempts to uncover the past and heal its wounds. This is the backdrop of Come On Home, a reminder that there is still a long way to go.

Image: Patrick Redmond

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The Smallest of Worlds

James Joyce (Adapted by Dermot Bolger): Ulysses, Abbey Theatre, Dublin (Director: Graham McLaren)

By Sascha Krieger

This summer, Dublin’s two major theatres are diving into the collective identity of Ireland’s capital city. While the Gate has a somewhat harmless stab at one of the most popular expressions of modern, post-Church-state Ireland with Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper, the Abbey, traditionally the space for discussions about and definition of Irish identity, takes on the book that put Dublin on the map, in literature and the mind of the world, and has influenced the way the city is looked at ever since: James Joyce’s Ulysees. Even so, its Dublin-ness might not be the key aspect of this mammoth of a novel: the way it has revolutionised story-telling, the way it presents the world through streams and puddles and rivers of consciousness, unconsciousness and fantasy, the way it represents a fragmented, non-objective perception of reality has radically changed this very perception and collective awareness of it. And literature, too, for that matter. A theatre adaptation naturally has to make choices, cannot do justice to the novel’s achievements in their entirety. But even with this caveat, Dermot Bolger’s adapation and Graham McLaren’s production leave much to be desired. Way too much, to be honest.

Image: Ros Kavanagh

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Dont’t Worry, Just Laugh

Roddy Doyle: The Snapper, Gate Theatre Dublin (Director: Róisín McBrinn)

By Sascha Krieger

Sometimes, books have a lasting impact on an entire society. Roddy Doyle’s famed and beloved „Barrytown trilogy“ is among those, a defining moment of Dublin identity, a Dublin that is urban, modern, decidedly working class. The quirky, lovable characters, the torching one-liners, the equal love of life and family and expletives helped shape the identity of not just the capital city but the entire country away from the grip of the past, the demons of the church state, the backwards politics of agrarianism and a neutrality that was decidedly anti-British. Sure, the working-class Dublin depicted left out its darkest parts, poverty, the drug epidemic, the trauma of unemployment, violence and crime, the lingering repression of an overpowering church that seemed to have missed the love part of the Christian message. Things are a little harmless, a little cozy and very much optimistic. The books celebrate the vibrancy, the stubborn lust for life at the lower end of the social spectrum, while not giving a sociologically accurate portrait of this part of society. They’re about spirit, not social criticism: Hardly any books could be further from the Ireland of Frank McCabe’s Angelas’s Ashes.

Image: Ste Murray

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Opening Doors

Film review: Love, Simon (Director: Greg Berlanti)

By Sascha Krieger

First of all: Love, Simon’s greatest achievement is that it was made. Believe it or not, the film is Hollywood’s first teenage film slash comedy with a gay protagonist. Ever. Its director Greg Berlanti has been a trailblazer in bringing gay topics to screens outside the „indie“ field, starting with the wildly successful 1990s teen TV blockbuster Dawson’s Creek, where as the showrunner he insisted in introducing a gay couple, even threatening to resign if it wasn’t included. Now he’s opened teen popcorn cinema to the fact that a significant percentage of its depicted group – and target group – loves members of their own sex. The fact that this is worth mentioning and even regarded as revolutionary in 2018, is not something to be proud about for Hollywood. That it has finally been done is at least a silver lining.

Image: © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

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These Shoes Are too Big for Walking

Film review – Solo: A Star Wars Story (Director: Ron Howard)

By Sascha Krieger

It’s almost as if the film wants to exorcise its, to put it mildly, difficult creation process. Its initial directors were fired halfway through, Ron Howard took over, making sure that at least top-level craftsmanship would be guaranteed. After a few minutes all of this is forgotten. Solo: A Star Wars Story charges out of the gate as if there was no tomorrow. A breathless chase, a few life-or-death confrontations, a love story, a miniature war movie thrown in for good measure and finally a memorable first meeting of  two beloved characters. The film’s first part is so fast-paced and breathless that viewers can easily forget how little things fit together, how much is constructed of set pieces cobbled together from various genres. Plausible characters? Who needs them? A consistent direction? That’s for losers! A goal for what is essentially a quest-based adventure movie, an Indiana Jones in space (the irony that said character was made famous by the man who originally played the title character in this one is not lost)? Overrated. Ron Howard knows how to build suspense, he masterfully erects a gritty, dirty, darkish world, an underworld really, and is an expert in keeping his audience entertained. There is no second that’s really boring, chiefly because Howard piles action sequence upon action sequence upon, well, you will guess it by now.

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That Awkward Age

Film review: Lady Bird (Director: Greta Gerwig)

By Sascha Krieger

Adolescence is the time when the individual emerges from the child, a process which involves emancipating oneself from one’s parents, frequently leading to clashes and a once close relationship being so utterly transformed that it can threaten to fall apart completely. This is summarized in Lady Bird’s opening scene: The titular, 17-year-old character and her mother share a moment of mutual happiness during a car ride before an entirely inconsequential disagreement leads to a rather radical separation. A scene which in its miniature characterisation of two strong, stubborn and equally vulnerable and confused women as well as its bitingly sharp humour epitomizes Greta Gerwig’s way of seeing the world and women’s place in it with which she has infused all her characters and which she now brings to her directorial debut. In Saoirse Ronan who invests her Lady Bird with a mixture of stubborn determination and fragile lack of direction and Laurie Metcalfe’s hard-shell and utterly lost mother, Gerwig has tow actresses carrying the film who take the Gerwig model a step further, adding a strength and roughness to it Gerwig’s own characters seldom have. The quirky sense of humour, the contradicting waywardness of characters caught in some sort of in-between and their essential awkwardness remain.

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Tense Present

Sean O’Casey: The Plough and the Stars, Abbey Theatre, Dublin / Lyric Hammersmith, London (Director: Sean Holmes)

By Sascha Krieger

Two years ago, Ireland celebrated the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising, a small rebellion against British rule, brutally crushed and the beginning of a development that lead to the creation of the Irish Free State three years later. Very much unpopular at the time, it has since entered political folklore as a pivotal event, the opening salvo of Irish independence. Its leaders are legends, founding fathers of the country they never saw. Ten years after the Rising, Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars opened in Dublin. Its depiction of the events from the underbelly of Irish society, poor tenement dwellers who experienced it as anything but heroic, caused riots as it questioned the official founding myth of the Irish state. It was a logical and challenging choice for the Abbey theatre’s 2016 season, a decision nobody took lightly. The fact that an Englishman was chosen as the director was just the beginning. Sean Holmes‘ production could not be further removed from both nostalgia and hagiography.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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„Who Tells Your Story?“

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre, London (Director: Thomas Kail)

By Sascha Krieger

Writing a review about Hamilton seems somewhat pointless. Everybody agrees this unlikely cultural phenomenon is the greatest show on earth and the most relevant, meaningful as well as engaging and entertaining piece of musical theatre most of us will ever have seen. And, you know what? It’s all true. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hop-hop musical about one of America’s founding fathers is so good it even works in England, the country America broke away from, where names like Alexander Hamilton’s do not stir strong feelings and a host of associations touching profoundly on collective and individual identity alike. It is because the story Miranda tells is universal and so is the language in which he tells it. It is that of an immigrant, one not being handed any „American dream“ but struggling to create it on his own. „Immigrant, they get the job done“, Lafayette, another on of them, says at some point. This is the story, this is the message. A simple one and a powerful one, too.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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Back to Reality

Harold Pinter: The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter Theatre, London (Director: Ian Rickson)

By Sascha Krieger

60 years ago, a future Nobel laureate produced one of the biggest flops of the London theatre seasons. After The Birthday Party, his second play, opened at the Lyric Hammersmith, it was universally panned by critics and cancelled after just eight performances. Today the play is regarded as a modern classic, one of the most important plays of the second half of the 20th century. For it’s 60th birthday (!), director Ian Rickson sets out to prove it still has life in it. Not an easy task as Pinter has always been a difficult author to stage, positioned somewhere between the „classic“ absurdists like Beckett or Ionesco (two vastly different authors, admittedly), whose dramatic universe where abstract, removed, distorted parallel worlds in which logic was absent and other replaced by a sense of life as being absurd in nature, and authors like Albee who found the absurd in everyday life, in the way we treat each other, interact, communicate. Pinter had a bit of both: his plays, The Birthday Party being a prime example, are often rooted in everyday reality but are pierced with a sense of the absurd, the unexplainable, the illogical. It is as if the Ionesco universe broke into Albee’s and the two became one. Balancing the abstract and the realistic, the symbolic and the literal is the key task for any Pinter production.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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For Whom the Clock Ticks

William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Company / Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon (Director: Polly Findlay)

By Sascha Krieger

Time is a leitmotif in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The future is rushed, folded into the present and lost, time is compressed and then halted, seconds feel like hours, hours like seconds. When the order is disturbed, when logic is turned upside down and humanity discarded, time goes out of joint. Macbeth himself is obsessed with time. He wants to force the future and loses the present. He waits, he acts but there is never such a thing as a „normal“ sense of time for him. Which takes us to another key topic of the play: children. Macbeth has none, therefore he has no future. In order to save his present, he kills other’s children but fails to finish his job. There is no time for him, a childless ruler. He must fail. Both elements play heavily in Polly Findlay’s production. In one of her most ingenious moves, she reinterprets the three witches, the „weirs sisters“ as children, relatives of the Shining twins, speaking as one, clad in pink onesies and holding baby dolls in her arms. In this world, children are dead or demonic. Time is out of joint. Yet it runs quite stoically. When Duncan is killed, a large clock begins a countdown. At its end, Macbeth is dead, his time up. He was, as we’ve seen doomed from the start. But all is not over. As Macduff is crowned, Banquo’s son, who the witches prophesied shall be king one day, stands before him, sword in hand. The clock resets, the next murder will follow.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

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