Caca Dana Review: “All the World’s A Cage” – By Niamh Ryan

Caca Dana Review: “All the World’s A Cage” – By Niamh Ryan

By Cathy Lee

The brilliant “All The World’s A Cage” engages and grips an audience from the beginning. On entering the small secluded dimly lit made-to-do theatre at “The Teachers Club” Dublin 1, the actors we had not yet been introduced to were already present on the background of the stage. This set a relaxed sort of mood into the air as the stage was at ground level, we relaxed into the comfortable couch-like audience seats and all I could experience was the feeling of curiosity the entertainment to come, and I wasn’t to be disappointed by this expectation! I would wholeheartedly describe this play as another success for the fantastic playwright and star Niamh Ryan, who plays “Jill”.

The very limited stage space was essential and fitting for the story. This one room setting exposed the character of the lives that the three young women held together, tightly bound in a not exactly cluttered scenario but one of great importance we are to learn to each of them, particularly “Tina” – played by Marie Hegarty. We discover each of these young women, graduated from college in Galway in their early 20s, as we watch the hilarious lack of interaction unfold between the ladies and the driven TV License inspector. We later discover that maybe indeed that this authoritarian figure isn’t the only one of his kind in their lives. Be it boyfriends, co-workers or closed-minded directors – these young women are really up against it.

The placement of individual striking lines in the play were exceptional for me as they were very captivating and allowed me to further my belief in the talents of Niamh Ryan as a script writer. Most of the comedy was physical at the beginning of the play, from yoga fitness moves of “Jill” to exaggerated facial expressions of “Amy” and the improper placement of some lemons and limes. But as the themes of feminism and power in the play further, lines from Tina and of course Jill, played by Niamh Ryan were hard hitting and to the point.

I found the characters to be strong with each possessing a distinct individuality and their own world view, strongly expressed at differing points in the play. Niamh Ryan as “Jill” and Katie Reid as “Amy” were headstrong and often outrageous bringing in heavily the humour and dominance into the scenes but I feel too that “Tina” played a distinct role in balancing out the possibly deeper strength of characters in the acting of Niamh Ryan and Katie Reid.

The play addressed a form of modern day millennial message or struggle and a strong feminine message which broke down barriers of fear in that of being a woman, the restrictions and draw backs found that we see existing here as the story unfolds. Through strong will and true togetherness in friendship, the girls overcome their challenges and the energy within the play can be felt, through the honesty of humour and the true sense of belief in one another as women and as good friends.

Although the play only held one setting due to the limited stage space available, the actors made this work through their use of physical space to depict time passing and also the excellent use of selective lighting present was visually important. Props were used to a good affect, from the weapons to the couch – which both united and separated the girls at different stages. I think this also added some colour to the play in a different way than the strong comedy did, as sometimes the atmosphere was dreary as the sense of hopelessness became present for the characters at their current and somewhat fixed reality.

Niamh Ryan is clearly a multi-talented young woman, with excellent script writing skills and is a capable actress herself included. Having seen another Caca Dana production “Eternal Youth” before,” All The World’s A Cage” showed me a new side to the writing of Niamh Ryan and I think her talents are very diverse with the potential for a vast future to explore, which audiences of all kinds should enjoy.

I wish the team at Caca Dana Theatre company all the best for their ventures stateside and I look forward to their future productions, wherever they may be. You can check out their website here for further information: https://www.cdtheatreco.com/

Review: The Tempest – broadcast from Stratford-Upon-Avon

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By Cathy Lee

On Wednesday January 11, I had the pleasure of seeing a Shakespeare play alongside one of my very good friends. We both share an interest in things literary and I was delighted to be invited to see this showing of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

What was different about this experience of Shakespeare was although I was watching one of his fantastic plays, it wasn’t on stage. In fact it was playing out on a large screen at the Eye Cinema, Galway. I was delighted to discover that despite the sounds of people crunching popcorn around me, it would be a great night of theatre – while not being at the theatre.

The Royal Shakespeare Company of London broadcast their performances to cinemas every couple of months. This really is a modern way to do Shakespeare. Don’t get me wrong, I love the theatre and seeing a play like any regular enthusiast but honestly I really wouldn’t knock the cinema experience. It was something entirely different and the quality of acting and producing was really outstanding. We were in awe of the story itself as it varied from scenes of disaster and hopelessness combined with comedy, love and relationships as well as final friendship in unlikely circumstances.

The story of The Tempest is well known and often told, given the amount of years it has been around for. But whole-heartedly, this version of the play was something utterly different and fell perfectly into the 21st century with the audience responding well also .When the director Gregory Doran, producer Pete Griffin and actor Mark Quartley, who plays the spirit Ariel, were interviewed during the intervals, you could truly see how much work was put into this production. This was something I suppose you wouldn’t get with regular theatre.

The play looks at the exile of a well-respected man, Prospero, played by Simon Russell Beale and his beloved daughter, Miranda (Jenny Rainsford) to an island with some magical qualities. There is a ship wreckage, how we are introduced to the tale, and a lot more people end up on this island than just the man and his daughter. We discover more about the slave to the family Caliban and the friend to Prospero, the magical spirit Ariel throughout the play.

While the play looks at the interaction between the royal sailors and the family, it also thoroughly explores the emotional relationship between father and daughter. The idea of moving on within the life-course and giving over to somebody else’s happiness being put before your own is looked at in detail. The principle character has to come to terms with his past as well as accepting the future that he wishes his daughter to have.

Quality of life is tested throughout the play, as the characters individually wish for more for themselves. This exploration of this puts into question who is good and who is evil in this tale. Described as Shakespeare’s most magical play, the technical enhancement to portray these magical elements played a huge role in the success of the play. It really was the highlight and could be particularly seen with the character Ariel, to bring his magical qualities well and truly to life. This was done through special lighting, voice-changing, colour and a high-tech costume that allowed a completely new portrayal.

I now know that the dusty copy I own of The Tempest will soon be coming off the book shelf as the play is very relevant to modern times. Sometimes the satellite buffered, but overall it didn’t take a lot away from the play.  The experience was quite interactive and you could also tweet your reactions as the play was being broadcast. This was certainly a very modern take on a classic and I had to agree with actor Mark Quartley, that it was something bold and daring that Shakespeare himself would have been proud of.

Photo: credit to site https://www.rsc.org.uk/the-tempest/about-the-play

Yeats Exhibition Review (2013)

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On the 29th October 2013, some enthusiastic sixth year English students, with a keen interest in poetry and culture, made the trip to The National Library of Dublin.

Here at the library located on Kildare Street next to Dáil Eireann, the students visited the fantastic exhibition of the life and works of the poet and playwright William Butler Yeats.

The award winning exhibition was first opened to the public in 2006, with the intent of being open for a single year only. Nine years on, the excellent exhibition is still as popular as ever with visitors of Irish nationality and for foreign tourists.

We were welcomed into the exhibition by our friendly and helpful tour guide, organised to assist us throughout. On first step into the exhibition room, we saw the poetic works of Yeats brought to life visually, as the poems were read aloud to changing images which one could sit and enjoy.

The exhibition was organised in a way that captured the changing times within Yeats’ life.

First we saw protected heirlooms from Yeats’ childhood, including a school report and pictures of his childhood home and surrounding area, which he later captures and refers to in his escapist era of poetry. This was followed by a glimpse into his teenage years, where we see him explore some more complex issues in attempt to gain understanding about the world around him and indeed himself.

The next section of the exhibition focused on the women within Yeats’ life and the role they played in his works as a playwright and poet. This particular room had framed photographs of different mistresses and love interests of Yeats, from Countess Markievicz and Maud Gonne to his own wife, Georgiana Hyde-Lees. This was interesting to see the total amount of women and how crucial their involvement with Yeats was in such ways to which they influenced his writings.

Following this we saw Yeats’ special connection to the older Lady Gregory, who Yeats was very close to in having similar interests with artistic and cultural projects, the major one being the setting up of The Abbey Theatre.

In glass cases were original letters Yeats and Gregory wrote to each other and it was clear to see the exceptional bond they held. Yeats in middle age explored different cults and religions. The exhibition portrayed this graphically with detailed robes and symbols from different cults and religions Yeats became fixated on. It was interesting to see how this influenced his works, bringing forth new ideas of self expression in a slightly romanticised fashion.

From the exhibition it was clear to see how Yeats was heavily involved and interested in politics. From his poems ‘Easter 1916’ and ‘September 1913’ Yeats comes forth holding  his own stance as a well established poet in society at the time, as he notes his reactions and views to these national social and political events which he lived through.

In later life he furthered his political input becoming a member of the Seanad. His objective as a Seanad member was to be a representative for the area of arts and literature, although he often ignored this and got involved in heated controversial debates on topics such as divorce. Within his final years of life he was still a persistent poet and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the exhibition, the top hat which he wore when receiving the award was on display and also a replica of the award itself.

In the final back room within the exhibition there was a place to sit to watch a film playing of literary and public figures speaking about Yeats, the late poet Seamus Heaney featured speaking here which was great to see their own appreciation of Yeats.  The exhibition had an excellent mixture of factual information, social history, politics, romance and religion which gave a detailed look into these aspects of Yeats’ life and works.

All artefacts present were donated by Yeats’ family, and it was really a capsule of dedication to the great poet and playwright he was and so much more. The mixture of multimedia modern technologies alongside original manuscripts was great to see, as the original works of Yeats were brought into focus to modern access.

To take the virtual tour online visit www.nli.ie/yeats .

The Yeats exhibition is just one of many free attractions to visit in Dublin. For those who wish to discover more about the attractions within our cultural capital city, log on to http://www.dublin.ie or www.visitdublin.com .