Theatre Times: The Corps Ensemble and ‘From Eden’

My weekend of culture continued on Sunday. I attended a showcase of new writing by a group called The Corps Ensemble at the Viking Theatre in Clontarf.
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I was curious about the event. Well of course I was – a night out watching live performance is one of life’s great pleasures. I was equally curious about the venue. I had heard of the Viking Theatre, but as it’s not quite in the city centre – and I am a creature of the city since I moved here – it was not really on my radar. Since coming home I am spoiled for choice in terms of English language shows – so much so that I miss a lot, due to the simple fact that I am not a millionaire, and there are only seven days in the week. No fear of bankruptcy this evening though. Entrance was a fiver – the price of a large garlic chips and cheese. How could I not go?

The Viking Theatre is a playhouse located upstairs from Connollys Pub on the Clontarf Road. The name is appropriate considering I have always known about Clontarf because of the famous battle between King Brian Boru and the Vikings, a thousand years ago. This is a story told in history class at primary school.

These pub theatres are a marvelous idea and seem fairly common in Ireland. The upstairs rooms in various hostelries are transformed into small theatres where companies with new work get a space to perform.

I met with my fellow attendees, we paid our fiver and the show began. It was not a full show. It was a staged reading of segments from several new full length plays, providing a taster for future work. The actors held the script in their hands. There were five mini shows in total. A murder mystery in rural Ireland in the 1970s; a parkside lunchtime encounter between an office drudge and a mysterious woman; a conversation between a man and a woman in a city centre flat after he invited her up after discovering her standing by the Liffey at night; a weed party in a staff cabin on a cruiseliner; and a conversation in a city centre flat between a couple who seem to be having relationship problems.

It was an interesting concept. Slightly frustrating perhaps as all the pieces were part of longer works. I guess the writers wanted to get a sense of how it sounds when staged in front of an audience. But I wanted to hear the full versions – not possible of course in one evening. But I’d go back for the full length plays.

I particularly enjoyed the piece  by Stephen Jones about the man and the woman in the flat after he invites her up. It was a very funny and natural piece, where the dialogue between the two actors was very fresh and funny.

If I was to give a continuity note – and I will – I’d change the line (I can’t remember which play this was in) about the man’s mother remembering the smell of burnt spuds as she prepared the evening meal, when she heard that Princess Diana had died. With my slight OCD tendencies when I heard that, I winced. Our saviour Lady Di, carked it at 2am. Why would the mother only hear about it while preparing the evening meal the next day. Wouldn’t she have heard sooner?

 

A very enjoyable evening (the strange woman sitting in front of me who thought that audience participation was allowed, notwithstanding – only on Planet Strange  is calling out encouragement to actors while they are performing permitted.)

While at the show I picked up a flyer for a show called ‘From Eden’ which had previously been performed at the Viking. It was currently running as a lunchtime piece at Powerscourt theatre in town.

I had the day off from work today. I emerged from my pit at 9.30 on receipt of an accidental phone call. Somebody had bum-dialled me. I answered the phone, and said hello. I heard the sounds of activity in the background. But no-one was alert to the fact that I was listening in. They went about their daily business, oblivious to my presence on the other end of the line.

As I inhaled my first mug of tea, I found the flyer. Showtime was at 1pm. And it was a cheap Monday admission – only eight euros – the price of a large garlic chip and cheese, and breaded chicken breast from Supermacs. Sure what else should I be doing on a rare, free Monday afternoon.

The Powerscourt Theatre is on the top floor of the ritzy Powerscourt Shopping Centre and they do only lunchtime shows – with a light lunch thrown in, if the mood takes you. I was expecting a sparse audience – isn’t everyone usually at work at this time? Well no, the queue snaked all along the corridor.

My fear that it was full, was thankfully not realised. I paid my fee, said no thanks to the lunch – heaven knows what it was, but in my opinion, pink is not an appropriate colour for a soup.

The play stars Seana Kerslake (who starred in the excellent film ‘A date for Mad Mary’ last year) and Stephen Jones (mentioned above) who also wrote this piece.

Set at a New Year’s Eve Party, Alan and Eva meet in the upstairs bathroom. As the music plays downstairs they start a conversation where they expose their deepest, darkest secrets to each other.

It is a wonderful play, Incredibly funny, the dialogue is fast paced and occasionally vicious. I really cared for both the characters as they reveal their struggles to each other – on New Year’s Eve which is meant to be a happy event.

The set looked great – well it’s a grungy bathroom but it looked right The performances were excellent – with Kerslake playing a role slightly reminiscent of her Mad Mary character. I loved that character though, so all is good.
‘From Eden’ in on at 1pm every day until Saturday. This one is highly recommended.

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