Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fringe Racecard 2007 (part 1)

This year's Dublin International Fringe Festival offers 118 shows in a mere sixteen days and something's gotta give. Whether your tastes run to scantily clad female swordswallowers, or scantily clad male contortionists, or even elsewhere altogether, the Curtain has the essential guide to the Fringe, with the Top Five must see shows from the Fringe's first week.

(Full program at

The Babelfish Tartuffe (SS Michael and John)
With a Fringe program, optimism and unbridled positivity is probably the best approach. I mean, who knows what The Babelfish Tartuffe will be like, but it' s already my favourite show. The shtick here is that Jamie Carswell and the Mangiare Theatre company have fed the French text of Moliere's classic comedy, Tartuffe, into the legendarily faulty internet translation site, Babelfish, and had the software output their script in English. Now, they are going to perform the resulting surreal computer re-writing of the seventeenth century tale of naivety, hypocrisy and an untrustworthy guru.

Ketzal / Incarnat (Samuel Beckett Theatre)
The award for most-hyped, er, that is, anticipated Fringe visitors this year… is shared between two companies. Russian outfit, Derevo's Ketzal, which mixes circus, performance art, mime, music and dance to create an abstract, extreme journey through human evolution, comes with a portfolio of boiling hot international reviews. While Fringe Festival director, Wolfgang Hoffman dubs Brazilian dance theatre company Lia Rodrigues' Incarnat "the most disturbingly moving reflection on human pain and suffering that I have ever seen". Beat that!

The Rep Experiment (Smock Alley)

Now is this a good idea, or the beginnings of a break-away festival. Working with a single cast, three directors will produce three different plays, and performed them in repertory for fifteen days. First off, Darragh McKeon directs a new version of Platonov by Chekhov, then David Horan has a tilt at Stephen Berkov's take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, while Tom Creed's production of German playwright, David Gieselmann's Mr. Kolpert closes out the rep season. The cycle kicks off September 8, but check carefully the dates of the show you want to see. That, or just take you chances.

Gerry and the Peace Process (Player Theatre)
The team that brought last year's funny, touching and weird, An Evening With Prionsias O'Ferfaille, are aiming even higher this year with nothing short of a musical comedy about the peace process with Big Ian, Gerry and Martin as protagonists. I, Keano meets Primetime, anyone?

All Over Town (Project Cube)
From the writer and star of the last year's runaway hit, Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) comes another dive into mayhem, this time directed by Calipo Theatre company's Darren Thornton. This time Phillip McMahon centres the action of his mad-for-it hero away from the Dublin clubs that our his natural habitat, and onto the backpacker trail in South East Asia, for a little 'gap year' action.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Panti's Shoes

Twink? Anna-Nicole Smith? Dolly Parton? er...Anne Doyle?...and Catherine Nevin? The roll call for the School of Wardrobe Hell, you're thinking. Well, close. But a closer answer still would be the dramatis personae of a new show from pioneering Dublin drag queen, Panti.

This is her here...

Panti's show In These Shoes? will be one of the highlight of this year's Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, which has already kicked off.

Panti (the alter ego of Rory O'Neill, one of the producers of the Alternative Miss Ireland and former Tokyo drag scenester "That was fun!") has created her own show, "a kind of lecture with lots of slides and video" in which the self-styled "queen of Ireland" explores the many women who have influenced her.

"With my drag character, her style is quite conversational," says Rory, who has taken over interviewing duties from Panti. "It comes very naturally to do something where she chats and tell stories. Nowadays it's all about the PowerPoint and it is funny to mix that with drag. I guess this isn't a typical drag show..."

The show, which is directed by Phillip McMahon 50% of the brains behind Danny and Chantelle, deals with the sort of women who have always fascinated Rory. And Panti. "Women who appear to be fake, but are actually real women. They all have a very strong visual image, but we know behind the image there is someone real. It's like a good drag queen, someone who has created their own surface, but you can see that they exist in the real world."

This type of woman, Rory explain, is clearly distinct from Paris Hilton "...she is all front and no reality. Whereas with Twink, you can always see Adele King in there. Paris Hilton doesn't have the depth, or the talent to be interesting at all. I'm always more interested in people with real talent.."

Which doesn't quite explain what Anne Doyle and, even more unexpectedly, Catherine Nevin are doing in this gang?

"Well, how many women have been tried for murder over the last 25 years in Ireland? And yet she is the only one that people remember. She is the one who people have become fascinated with, her hair, her nails too well done, just too well-dressed. If you are a murderer, well, people want you to look dowdy."

"And Anne Doyle has changed her appearance so slowly that people don't remember that she started out as a kind of raven-haired beauty on the TV. That's what I remember her as when I was young. But she has changed so subtly people don't even notice. In her case, it is just staying around long enough that's done the trick; she doesn't really need to say anything."

And Panti's own tips for the DGTF (besides using the wares of her sponsor, Make Up Forever)? "I will try and go see some stuff, but when I'm on every night, it's not easy. But The Gaydar Diaries is one show everyone seems to be talking about. And Pageant the Musical, which is all drag, so I better support that."

More of Panti miming like a lula on lulatube

Festival info:

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Monday, March 05, 2007

REVIEW: Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) (Project Cube, Dublin)

There's a blizzard of 'yolks' in actor, Phillip McMahon's first show as a playwright, a sweetly, scurrilously-told two-hander about sex, friendship, dancing and Bird's Eye potato waffle.

For mates Danny (McMahon) and Chantelle (Georgina McKennit) Friday night just wouldn't be Friday night without a pocketful of pills from party queen, Swiss Toni. But equipped with ingredient X, the kids are ready for anything. Or at least anything that starts with a GHD, involves a few WKDs, and, with a bit of luck, ends up with a BJ.

Anyone who has seen Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs, Mark O'Rowe's Howie the Rookie, or Garry Duggan's Monged will be familiar with the style. But anyone who can imagine what might happen if all three plays were genetically spliced together will pretty much have the whole picture.

McMahon's is not a hugely innovative piece, but the writer handles the material with plenty of finesse and humour, even when generating his laughs through some extremely frank coverage of human bodily functions. You'll never see blue WKD and plaster of paris in quite the same way again.

What is very fetching about the whole thing is how gently the realism is played. Where Mark O'Rowe, for example, is burstin' to expose his streety credentials, Danny and Chantelle's Ballymun roots are conjured more carefully, in gentle and intriguing asides, rather than stagey confrontation. Life "after the weekend" may indeed be hard for the pair, but McMahon doesn't convince us of the authenticity of what we are watching by making a fetish of it.

Best of all are the performances, aided by Deirdre Molloy's precise, energetic and sure-footed direction. McMahon and McKennit, as the central pair, move lithely between monologues, conversations and quickfire physical caricatures, like exemplary tour guides to a city of fleeting pleasures.

All of that in less than an hour? What are you on?

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Danny and Chantelle's mate, Phillip McMahon

Two clubbers on the run from the "demolition wake" being held in Ballymun as the first of the neighbourhood's towers come down are at the centre of Danny and Chantelle (Still Here), a play that offer close-up insight into the everyday business of "going out and getting trashed."

The piece is the first play from Phillip McMahon, a Dublin actor, who cooked Danny and Chatelle (Still Here) up with his flatmate, Georgina McKevitt, who also happens to star alongside McMahon.

McMahon trained with the Dublin Youth Theatre and the National Youth Theatre, where he became involved with the Australia National Theatre for Young People.

"They are very like our own youth theatres, I suppose, except that they have their own premises and a national reputation and shitloads of money, donated by Fox, and by Nicole Kidman." Kidman, along with others such as Strictly Ballroom director, Baz Lurhman, are former members of the group, the world's largest youth theatre,

"All of that was about ten years," says McMahon of his various youth theatre experiences. "It was a sort of apprenticeship, more than an education, but it worked for me."

The Dublin-born actor knew from an early age he wanted to be an actor, but only recently thought about writing. "When I was younger I was always burning to be an actor, but as you get a bit older, the lustre of being up front somewhat fades…"

Faced with a shortage of juicy roles, he and his flatmate-cum-co-star decided ("over the course of a few dinners") that they would need to write something for themselves to perform in. Some months later, Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) was born.

"We knew we wanted it to be a play about two characters. And we wanted it to be something the actors would enjoy performing, something that was spoken in a language that was heightened, but which really reflected the poetic side of the way people in Dublin speak."

Part of the plays impact has come, undoubtedly, from some creative uses of marketing. The fictitious Danny and Chantelle are owners of many-friended Bebo and MySpace pages, while a clip made by McMahon and McKevitt in their flat (stripped to make it look like a dingy club toilet) let them promote the show to YouTube users.

All of which went into the mix to give the show access to an audience that only very rarely shows up at Dublin theatres. McMahon and company give every indication of knowing their audience, and indeed, the hidden fears and desires of anyone who considers going to a play. Danny and Chatelle runs for 55 minutes (in its socks).

"When we were writing the show we said: 'look, let's not labour this' especially for the audience we were trying to attract. They are not going to want to sit in the theatre for three hours! No way," says McMahon, recalling a recent run in with Julius Ceasar at The Abbey. "That really tested me..."

"I think we managed to get people who don't go to the theatre at all in the original run. I suppose being at the POD helped, but it was also a play that a lot of people who had been going out in Dublin over the last few years recognise. They feel a bit nostalgic about those times now...."

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