July 25, 2012 by Smock Alley
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Unedited review sent in by Alan Cox :
Smock Alley review.
Allow me to deal succinctly with the question of ‘price.’
Of all the theatres I have patronised in Dublin over the last few years Smock Alley is by far the most reasonably priced.
This is especially so when the quality of the 2 productions I have experienced so far, ‘ She Stoops To Conquer’, and ‘ Playboy of the Western World,’ are taken into account. I use the words ‘Experienced’ and ‘quality’ deliberately because on both occasions these two theatrical essentials have been abundantly realised.
Not only have the production levels been high, but the energy and commitment of the casts has seemed to extend into the audience, and generate a level of emotional, and intellectual participation which was both refreshing and memorable. The only theatre experience I would consider Smock Alley’s equal in this sense is London’s Globe theatre… and then only when it isn’t raining!
Front of house staff deserve a round of applause also. They are professional, welcoming, and approachable… even when, as has happened on my two visits, the coffee machine ‘played up’.
Because I live in Roscommon, so far, it has been the Sunday matinees I have experienced when the audience has been a little sparse and scattered around the space. I can only imagine what being part of a fuller evening audience may be like; but I am determined, at some point, to experience it.
If, in these difficult economic times, any theatre in Ireland deserves to survive and prosper, then it is Smock Alley…. and if this all seems over the top, and ‘gushing,’ I make no apologies. You have earned every word of it… despite the coffee machines mechanical vagaries!!
Unedited Review sent in Wed 25th :
…tonight I was a party to, and part of, because there is no boundary either physical or emotional, between actors and audience,a theatrical experience that seduces, enthralls and thrills.
This Smock Alley Theatre of Synge’s classic sings from start to finish.Imagine a Cecilia Bartoli singing of the first note of Umbra Mai Fu lasting two hours,and you get some idea of the purity, the joy and thrill of the play from Pegeen’s first writing of her shopping list to her desolate ‘I’ve lost him surely’.
The production sparkles with energy, imagination and risk throughout and Patrick Sutton’s direction is both daring and seductive.The audience is sucked into the performance both through simple authenticity of the boundaryless set and the lure of the caefully studied performanc of each actor.
Pegeen gets it so right with her alternating between the wily lover and the hard headed daughter ;and the steel underlay of her innocent beauty is both a challenge and a reassurance.The portrayal of the masculine is powerful throughout and manages to engage with our own masculine weakness; the women dressing The Playboy in women’s clothes towards the end is more powerful than any words.The delivery and interpretation of Synge’s words is musical and meaningful in a way that hasn’t been heard before.
The three young acolytes of the widow Quin remind us of the witches in Macbeth…with a choreographed eroticism that is magical.
And what of the Widow Quinn….she stole me heart surely…a breathtaking performance of presence, seduction and innocent ruthlessness.
Was there anything ‘bad’ about it?…just one thing…It ended!
with best wishes to Patrick…and all the cast…as you can see I was captivated by the production.
Reamonn O Donnchadha
I was so fortunate to be in Dublin at the weekend, and saw Smock Alley’s Playboy of the Western World. , It was superb, totally gripping, funny, tragic and well acted, we were still talking about it the next day. Also had the priviledge of meeting the actors after the show, who were a delight and so enthusiastic, they should have been exhausted after such a physical performance, a memorable evening. The theatre is intimate and atmospheric which adds to it all.
Good luck to all of you, keep it up.
Smock Alley: Playboy of the Western World, July 27th
This is theatre making at its best: exciting, entertaining, inspiring, social and still, enough left over from the door for a dressed Pimm’s at the interval! The performance positively fizzes from the word go, rising to minor, expertly controlled explosions of excitement, such as the leaping, laughing, dancing village girls on Christy’s unmade bed and the impossibly spot-on chorus-like commentary of the races or indeed explosions of violence, such as the near-lynching of the playboy and the burning of his shins that he might let go the leg of the table, or the third and final face-off with his father. And yet, the performance never goes flat. Even in those quiet, sensitive moments, when Pegeen Mike shows her tender, vulnerable side and Christy talks of holding her and kissing with wet mouths, the sexual frissons find the balance beteeen shy restraint and expression. And stirring, stirring all the while, is the wikedly wily widow Quinn, as self-possessed as any woman would want to be when opportunity knocks, if somewhat desperate, as she bargains, not once, but twice for a way across another’s land, lots of cattle and manure at Micklemass. We have the full spectum of human emotion laid bare before us, from the fearful, skittish, prancing of Shawn Keogh to the lusty lure of vengence and murder with no shortage of belittling mockery in between. Outstanding performances all round. Judiciously daring direction by Patrick Sutton liberates both the language and passion of these wildly dignified and all too human characters. Friendly, courteous staff and a seating arrangement that encourages and facilitates chat and banter, all in all, made for a memorable night out.
I happened to watch “The Playboy …” during my short visit to Dublin some weeks ago, but the performance and the wonderfully small theatre are still on my mind. The actors played their parts in such a convincing way, funny and tragic at the same time. At last the play has come alive to me, all the longing of those young people in a thinly populated and under-developed rural area, but also their joy of life and daring. When I read the play as a student some 40 years ago, I could not feel the charm of the play, but I can feel it now.
I hope that in October, when I come to visit with my students, we will be lucky to watch another great performance of Irish drama.
I just heard that Ross Dungan’s play ‘The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle’ played in Soho Theatre London last night to a full house. I’m not surprised as I saw the play in Smock Alley several months ago and it stayed with me for some considerable time. It is a witty, fast, imaginative and action-packed story. It faultlessly shifts from past to present, not unlike William Burroughs’ collage technique, where ruptures are stitched together into an apparent seamless uninterrupted stream. It’s great to be challenged and entertained at the same time; a great play. Wonderful!
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