Tag Archives: theatre

That Brazen Strap

The box office is now open here for my play ‘That Brazen Electric Strap of a Wan’ playing at the King’s Head Theatre, London in May.

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Treas Callaghan is a 77-year-old retired head-mistress who has been “good” all her life. However, now nearing the end of her mortal coil, she has come to realise that all she upheld in her life, the church and society, ultimately harmed and limited her. Treas is increasingly haunted by the memory of her older sister Moll, a brazen strap who was hounded from the island in the 1950s.

Treas determines to absorb her sister’s spirit and explore the areas barred to her a young woman: working with electricity, taking magic mushrooms and having sex. For the latter, she hires a troubled rent boy from Dublin, Ronaldo.The terrain is further complicated when Northern Irish nurse Fintan McGinley makes an unexpected call.

A metaphor for contemporary Ireland a century on from the Easter Rising, the play is a wry, darkly comic look at the state of the Irish nation, the scars of the twentieth century and its legacy. Do come along…

This production is funded by an Arts Council England grant/National Lottery Funding.


Fringe thus far…

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I’ve been thoroughly entertained for a week both by the festival itself and by old friends I’ve met up with (planned and unexpected) and so far this trip has been a 2013 highlight. Edinburgh Fringe is a swirling, bubbling, boiling concoction of the performing arts. And I’m dizzy. There are, I’m told, 45,000 shows here over the month of August and, it seems, every single one of these shows is represented on The Royal Mile by a clown juggling on a unicycle, dishing out flyers as she goes. It’s overwhelming. And it’s unique.

With so much on offer, there’s  always going to be a wide range re quality and it’s difficult to make a decision re what to view when all you have are lists and lists and lists of names. I’ve been advised to stick to a few venues that are known for picking quality shows and then I also chose on the basis of my own taste/interest/content (ie my novel involves a lot of juggling, so I went to see a juggling show).  But even with this advice in hand, the results were not quite what I expected.

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The juggling show has so far been the hands down (‘scuse pun) best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe so far. ‘Smashed’ by the Gandini Jugglers at the Assembly Hall is a hybrid of dance and juggling which manages to be smug-ironic funny, thought provoking, skilful, thoughtful, entertaining and just the right amount of crazy. And I only went there for juggling research purposes! Unexpected delight. Five stars for ‘Smashed’.

And I’ll give a four star review to ‘The Events’ at the Traverse. The Traverse has a reputation for picking the cream of the crop and scooping up Fringe firsts. This is a play that raises questions that linger in the mind long after the performance – which is what art should do. The performances by the two professional actors are outstanding and the writing is clever and weaves and juxtaposes opposing philosophies. The Events uses a local choir partly to sing, partly to act out ‘members of the public’. They don’t try to be anything but reading-off-the-page-with-a-mike, non-actors which while I admired what the production was trying to achieve, I felt these moments jarred too much with the rest of the performance. Also, the cynic in me wondered if the non-professionals were funding donkeys – something which only works if you can make it feel right and I don’t quite think this quite did. Still, it’s a small quibble in an otherwise excellent piece of theatre.  Zoe Lyons, at the Assembly rooms also gets four stars. Her comedy is keenly observed simple truths about life, warmly told.

Three stars to ‘The Secret Agent’ at the Traverse. This production was popping with good ideas, visually interesting, beautiful moments of choreography, funny comedy, high drama etc… the problem was that the piece never really figured out its own identity and ended up being rather a blancmange of genre, each one pulling against the next and the audience and production lost the plot, quite literally.

And two stars to ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’ at Underbelly’s Topside. Much like with the Gandinis I went there for Auden research purposes and this is his work put to music (inspired by the rhythm in his poetry) and sung in a Noel Cowardesque manner. The idea was interesting, the material good but somehow it fell down on the delivery and the result was Brideshead camp and monotonous after a fashion.

Obviously, I’ve only seen a few grains of sugar in a bowl full of performance – And there’s still a week to go! Oh, and thanks to Colette (comment on previous article) for the dining tips – Spoon for lunch and Kilimanjaro for coffee are ace – maybe see you there.

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Hurrah Edinburgh!

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I’m in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – the world’s largest arts festival or Glastonbury for culture vultures. It’s my first time here though I’ve visited vicariously through friends for decades. I’ve know people who’ve come here and bag a Fringe First Award and never look back, career wise – I’ve also had friends who have had their hearts broken here, lost their shirts and all other sorts of clichés. Some have partied for 25 days, others have honed their craft, been inspired, made contacts, others have been mistreated by slave driving ego monster directors. But everyone comes away with an Edinburgh story and everyone tells me I should go. So, I’ve heeded their advice at last, deciding I’ve definitely got to see the Fringe before I leave the UK for good. Moreover, I’m hoping to bring my own stage play here next year, so this is also a rekki of sorts.

I’ve only booked four shows in advance, preferring to wait to see what was buzzing when I got here. I’ll report on highlights and must-sees but please, please, please any suggestions on what to see (or avoid!) would be gratefully received. And, as I’m a first time Edinburgh visitor, any other tips regarding the Scottish capital are most welcome.

Good veggie restaurants? Hidden café gems? Cool bookstores? Meet ups, gatherings etc… You never know I might bump into one of you here.