Taken From Irish Times
Abbey Theatre, Dublin
What the devil is someone supposed to do with this line: “Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-ow-oo”? That yodel of vowels belongs to Eliza Doolittle, the Covent Garden flower girl who would be transformed through elocution and style into a duchess. Expressing both awe and distress, Charlie Murphy’s knock-out, layered performance makes Eliza’s catchphrase sound like a cat choking on a trombone; a sound that is first amusing, then moving and somehow never grating. That is also the great achievement of Annabelle Comyn’s tremendous new production of Pygmalion for the Abbey.
We all know the story. The astonishingly supercilious phonetician, Henry Higgins (a sublimely spry and brusque Risteárd Cooper) bets his colleague Colonel Pickering (Nick Dunning) that he can transform a girl of humble status into royalty with scant regards for social and emotional consequences. It is a narrative as full of romantic fantasy as horror: Kate Middleton meets Frankenstein.
George Bernard Shaw could never quite reconcile his didactic satire on class barriers, moral equivocation and the stifling of female independence with something as pleasing as a hit show. But Comyn can. In outline, the production sounded like a similar wager: that with enough work on crystal-cut intonation and sumptuous costumes from Peter O’Brien, the national theatre could pass itself off as the Gate. Instead, it uses all the resources of the Abbey – considered casting, impeccable voice direction, technical capacity, money – to provide the luxurious pleasure of spectacle and a pitch-perfect ensemble to plumb Shaw’s ideas for all they’re worth.
In a play where everything is judged on appearance (a gentleman is recognised by his boots not his manners), Paul O’Mahony’s set plays delightful games with surface. The filing boxes of Higgins’ study climb to impossible reaches, a scientific obsession rendered toweringly absurd. There is a tendency to show off: an early set change, covered by the sly, clever chatter in Philip Stewart’s music, seems like an ad for the Abbey’s “exceptionally elaborate machinery”, as does Eliza’s bathing scene, which the excellent Fiona Bell conducts with the tenderness of waterboarding.
Such moments emphasise the cruelty of the “experiment” and for all the delicious mirth Lorcan Cranitch finds in Doolittle, a contented member of the “undeserving poor”, or the entertainment of Cooper’s irascible propulsion, Comyn wisely leads their sardonic logic and arias of abuse into flashes of violent intent.
Could Shaw be as blunt? “He uses the English language like a truncheon,” Max Beerbohm once said, and when the fifth act curdles into exhaustive disputation, you wonder again if some things are better left unsaid. The most tragic impression in this accomplished production is Eliza’s silence, the most comic her robotic high society debut, the most triumphant the regaining of her spirit. Balancing the surface charm and heady substance of Pygmalion is no easy challenge. But – as Shaw never put it – by George, I think they’ve got it.
Runs until June 11
Pygmalion is on the Abbey stage at the moment. Better known to some people as the story of “My Fair Lady”, it is the play upon which the 1964 Oscar-winning movie of the same name was based.
Written by George Bernard Shaw, it is extraordinary that this is the first time that Pygmalion has been produced in the Abbey Stage.
Risteárd Cooper plays the almost formidable but sharp and comedic Henry Higgins against Charlie Murphy’s Eliza Doolittle. Higgins has not interest outside of his beloved phonetics and takes on Ms. Doolittle merely to win a bet with his colleague and fellow phonetician and linguist, Colonel Pickering (Nick Dunning). Both Cooper and Murphy are fantastically funny, in particular Higgins blustering speeches and complete oblivion to Eliza as a real person lead to some funny and some almost heart-breaking moments.
With the costumes having been designed by Peter O’Brien and with the usual rich and wonderful stage setting of the Abbey, Pygmalion is a veritable feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Cutting remarks, quick wit, comedy, beauty and love…Pygmalion has got it all and more. I’d go again right now if I could, it is a marvellous gem of a performance.
Pygmalion runs at the Abbey Theatre from 27th April to 11th June 2011. Tickets cost from €25.00 to €40.00 (€15.00-€23.0 for students and OAPs). Matinee performances on Saturday afternoons are less expensive. You can buy tickets online at www.abbeytheatre.ie or call the Box Office on (01) 87 87 222.
Thank you to the Press Office in the Abbey Theatre for two review tickets to see Pygmalion.
Bewleys Cafe Theatre, Dublin
Never underestimate the potential and pleasure of a well-worn formula. Take the boxing drama, in which a damaged hero has something to prove. Coming from a long line of Finglas boxers that may trace its origin to the invention of the fist, Dan Coyle Jnr – son of Dan Coyle Snr, grandson of Dan Coyle The First – is long out of shape, heavy with grudges and finally spurred by his own fatherhood.
Against the tragic grandeur of comeback kids and has-beens, Dan Jnr is something more banal: a never-was. The brilliance of Gavin Kostick’s writing is to give the heroic form to an ordinary Dan, played by Aonghus Óg McAnally. If anything, the stakes get lower – first, he’s fighting for the middleweight champion of the world (“I am in me hole”) then simply to get fit. But the monologue, structured like the rounds of a boxing match, makes his private stakes higher: breathing hard through fitness struggles, tensely squaring up to his estranged father, steadily claiming an identity as a responsible family man.
Written specifically for McAnally – the son of performer Aonghus McAnally, grandson of the great actor Ray McAnally – any similarity to persons living or dead is intentional. That brings a bracing shiver to the line, “Me name has got me to this level, but not me”, yet the performance’s real impact is more universal and brutal. When it comes to the title bout of self definition, a son’s opponent is his father and here McAnally and Kostick deliver a knockout blow: “No man can fight his own da when both are in their prime and that’s the tragedy.”
The play’s psychology isn’t always deft: one dream sequence is so basted with symbolism that even Dan compliments his subconscious. But director Bryan Burroughs steadies the explication with the eloquence of physicality.
Fight Night’s final, wordless moments are its most extraordinary, McAnally’s release so stark, exhilarating and cathartic that Colm Maher’s lights dip too quickly, the music arriving too soon. We don’t need to see McAnally land a punch to know what he’s fighting for. We’re up there in the ring with him.
Runs until June 11th
The stellar cast is now confirmed and will include some of the best talent in Irish Theatre. For two nights only, these actors will come together under the direction of Irish Times Theatre Award winner Selina Cartmell and some of the leading figures in the cast will include Louis Lovett, Cathy Belton and Mark Lambert.
Selina Cartmell has just been announced Best Director at the Irish Times Theatre Awards for the World Premiere of Robin Robertson’s translation of MEDEA, which received five nominations, and she is currently Artist-In- Residence at the Samuel Beckett Theatre.
Both ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore and The Broken Heart are gripping, powerful, and transformative dramas. They demonstrate the deeply moving humanity of one the finest playwrights of the Jacobean period.
‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore is by turns darkly comic and brilliantly horrific, and remains as powerful and as controversial as it was when first performed in 1629.
The Broken Heart has never been performed in Ireland. This timeless piece explores a society where men and women are tested to their limits, and the consequences of one man’s fatal decision.
The pieces will be presented as a once-off double bill of public readings by a renowned group of actors, followed by open discussion with Selina Cartmell and the cast.
These public readings will only be performed twice, on Thursday 9th June and Friday 10th June at 4pm in the Samuel Beckett Theatre on Trinity College campus. Tickets are €7 full price, €4 concession and €10 for both readings. Tickets can be booked online on the ticket booking page or on the box office line 01 896 2242.
Also featuring members of the Samuel Beckett Centre:
Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College
Thursday 9th June
Friday 10th June
€7 full, €4 concessions, €10 for both readings
www.dublinshakespeare.com or 01 896 2242
www.dublinshakespeare.com or www.facebook.com/DublinShakespeare2011
All-new website at ark.ie
As well as dedicated events, schools, organisational, blog and children & culture sections, our new website features an interactive area called ARK LIVE where children can watch short interviews with actors, musicians and artists, play arty online games, or get creative at home or in the classroom with our online briefs.
The current online briefs featured include a challenge to draw an Ark-themed picture that could end up being used to illustrate the “About Us” area of the site, and an invitation for children coming to The Ark for Dublin Dance Festival to make their very own mini-movie and tell everyone what they thought of the show. Check it out and help the little ones in your life to get creative!
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Abbey Theatre Amharclann na Mainistreach,
26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, Ireland