Thursday, July 13, 2006

Focus Theatre's new focus

Dublin smallest and perfectly-formedest little theatre, The Focus, is having a bit of a rest. The building that houses the micro-theatre, located on a choice noisette of prime city land, off Fitzwilliam Square, is in need of a little refurbishment.

So, the next two productions by the venerable company usually found in Pembroke Street, will take place “off site”. The company’s next production, Two Rooms, a 1980s play about middle east hostages, which promises to offer strong contemporary resonances, will open at Andrews Lane Theatre, while the show following that, Mother Teresa Is Dead, will open at Project.

“The building needs a bit of care and attention, the roof leaks and there are various things that need to be tidied up. And it needs to be made a bit more accessible,” says Focus administrator (and one half of the company’s staff of two) Cian O’Brien.

“We are committed to this size really,” says O’Brien. “I suppose in an ideal world we would be able to add a little, but we are committed to using a small space. Having your own venue is such a unique thing, and keeping that is a priority. We want to come back here.”

Focus has transferred shows – such as their long running version of Proof, directed by Joe Devlin – to Andrews Lane before. But the hook up with Project is something of a departure.

“We were very interested in finding out,” says O’Brien. “What would happen if we worked with someone with a bigger marketing profile. We wanted to see if that could help us build up audiences for the future.”

In the past, Focus has worked with companies such as Making Strange, who produced the long running and excellent hit production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “That appealed to our traditional audiences – which tends to be 40-plus,” says O’Brien. “But it also brought in a brand new audience. The thing was, we didn’t really hold onto them…”

Work is due to take around a year.

“Off site” productions are not, however, the only thing to keep the Focus busy in the coming year. The company, which specialises in keeping the flame of “the Method” alive and runs an actors’ studio (offering training to working actors) to that end, will be expanding its training wing, with the opening of an actors studio in Belfast, at Stranmillis University College.

And as for that for that lovely bit of land that must be the apple of many a Dublin property developers eye? Well, the land is owned by an Irish couple who now live in France, and whose advancing years mean that they do not get to the Focus much these days. The Focus, however, hold a long lease.

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