The Dublin Fringe Festival is an arts celebration festival, going from the 8th-23rd of September. Events range from short plays to concerts to performance pieces, and I have been lucky enough to see three Fringe events! Because I am pursuing a Theater degree at Skidmore (and because I love the theatre), I want to see as much live theatre as I can while I am outside the United States as to notice the differences and similarities between the theatre I am used to seeing and these new experiences.
A Holy Show by Janet Moran was the first Fringe show I attended, and was produced on the Peacock Stage in the Abbey Theatre. The play, a comedy, followed the story of a 1981 Aer Lingus plane hijacking, and the entirety of the script was performed by only two actors who played every character: the hijacker, the woman sitting next to him, the pilot, the flight attendants, and many other plane riders. As one can pick up from the title, the play had a focus on religion – the hijacker, an Australian ex-monk, committed his crime in an attempt to get the Pope’s attention and reveal a Christian secret. However, the play’s mention of religion and religious purpose sometimes seemed forced, as if to remind its audience that This Play Is About Religion And Not Just A Funny Show – despite this, however, the writing yielded incredibly real and sympathetic characters (even the hijacker). The actors also attributed to the truthfulness of the characters, as well as to the comedy of the play; their quick, perfectly cued transitions from character to character resulted in fast-paced comedy as well as clearly defined characters and relationships. My favorite part of the show was the design: the set consisted of three chairs that moved around to create different parts of the airplane, and projections in the background which did not overpower the action on stage (they mostly elicited to setting; only once or twice did the projections portray action on stage, and I thought both times were necessary and not too visually distracting from the live action on stage). The costumes were simple, and both actors were dressed in matching clothes that never changed except for at the very end, when one actor came onstage as the Virgin Mary in a yellow robe and a halo of lights, and right before the final blackout turned to the audience and sneakily smiled. I thought this single costume change was powerful, since it was the most dramatic character and design shift seen in the entire show, while fitting in nicely with the ridiculousness of the performance and its text. Overall, I loved A Holy Show and thought it was a brilliant piece of theatre: funny, entertaining, filled to the brim with talent, and focused on a somewhat forced yet pretty naturally poignant topic.
Black Jam: Cure at The Complex was not quite a theatrical performance but more of an artistic sharing space/collective of likeminded beings/house party. The Complex, the venue for this event, is an art gallery, and the room we were in was a large open space with a little raised stage on one side. The night began with three poetry readers, two of whom were first-time readers – this was a lovely (and short!) introduction to the night, which later turned into more of a party than a performance. After the poets finished, the night became a line-up of known and unknown hip-hop artists performing up close and personal on this tiny stage. My favorite musicians were a woman rapper (whose name escapes me – there was no formal program for this event, unfortunately resulting in mishearing the names of the artists and being unable to find them again) who had the most amazing stage presence and hardcore, bopping songs, and the performers after her were a rap group called BlackFish that had a fabulous mix of high-energy rap tracks and smooth R&B tunes – one of the artists took the stage during his own slower songs and sang a heart-wrenching melody, completely mesmerizing the crowd with his vulnerability. My friend and I were both too exhausted to stay for the whole night, but thoroughly enjoyed this arts-centric party!
The Sound of Phoenix by Shanna May Breen and Brendan Farrell was an interactive performance experience: all the ticket-holders boarded an old bus and rode into and throughout Phoenix Park, a gigantic public park in Dublin, as a soundtrack played throughout the entirety of the performance. The soundtrack was a mix of ambient noises – at one point, the hum of bees echoed throughout the bus and as the bus halted, honey made by Phoenix Park bees was passed around for the audience to enjoy – as well as voiceovers of stories about Phoenix Park. These interviews ranged from personal anecdotes to nationwide experiences of Phoenix Park shootings, and in the middle of the performance a poem about this event was beautifully recited. I personally found the experience to be so peaceful that I actually dozed off a bit, not due to boredom but due to the calmness of the repetitive soundtrack, the smooth bus gliding through the gorgeous scenery, and the comfort I felt inside the bus. As a friend of mine said, it was like being in an ‘electric cradle’ and being gently rocked to sleep. Some might say falling asleep makes for an unsuccessful piece of theatre, but I disagree: not only was I intrigued and interested in the piece, and entertained by it in general, but I think feeling so safe in a theatrical space that you fall asleep is a sign of success.
I hope to continue attending Dublin Fringe Festival events (actually just purchased a ticket for another Phoenix Park performance!) since they have all proven to be interesting, entertaining, and fantastically fun works of art. And I hope to continue seeing more theater as I travel in Ireland as well as other parts of Europe!