Theatre

News Round Up

Hi guys. Couple of items of news to cover and I might as well start with the big effing news.
THE BIG EFFING NEWS
Remember that play I was writing for the Abbey Theatre? Well, I handed it in and they said “sure, why not?” So. Yeah. A play of mine is getting a professional production in the national theatre.
Excuse me for a moment.
A Falling Ton of Iron should be going up sometime in 2017-2018 and I’ll keep you all posted. Nothing left to do now but wait and hope I don’t go down in history as the worst thing to happen to the Abbey since Ernest Blythe. Moving on!
The Devil’s Heir
Remember when I said that my most recent draft of the Devil’s Heir had been lost? Well, it’s been found.
It was actually on an old USB key but you get the gist.

It was actually on an old USB key but you get the gist.

New chapters will be going up soon, thanks for your patience.
New York, New York
This month Ms Mouse turns thirty so to celebrate I’m taking the love of my life to see Hamilton on Broadway.
“You packed?”

“You packed?”

 “Yep.”

“Yep.”

“Now remember, we’re mice in New York, if we get seperated…”

“Now remember, we’re mice in New York, if we get seperated…”

“I climb the tallest building I can find and sing “Somewhere, out there.” until you find me.”

“I climb the tallest building I can find and sing “Somewhere, out there.” until you find me, I know.”

Anyway, this means I won’t be around to do the next review but it’s okay because…
Meet your new Mouse
Paper Alchemist has very kindly agreed to step up while I’m in the States.
“Hey folks! I’ll see you all in two weeks!”

“Hey folks! I’ll see you all in two weeks!”

“Mouse, are you sure about this?”

“Mouse, are you sure about this?”

“What? Amelia’s a great reviewer.”

“What? Amelia’s a great reviewer.”

“No doy. Remember what happened when John Stewart left The Daily Show and John Oliver subbed for him.”

“No doy. Remember what happened when John Stewart left The Daily Show and John Oliver subbed for him?”

“Yeah, it worked out great. In fact, people actually preferred John Oliver and he ended up getting his own show that became even more popular than the Daily Show oooooooooooh…”

“Yeah, it worked out great. In fact, people actually preferred John Oliver and he ended up getting his own show that became even more popular than the Daily Show oooooooooooh…”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Ah it’s fine. I’ll just leave her a movie to review that’s so horrible it’ll destroy her will to review anything ever again.”

“Ah it’s fine. I’ll just leave her a movie to review that’s so horrible it’ll destroy her will to review anything ever again.”

“Hey Mouse. Thanks so much for letting me do this.”

“Hey Mouse. Thanks so much for letting me do this.”

“No problem. I’m a good friend.”

“No problem. I’m a good friend.”

So that’s it. Thanks for everything guys. Check in on 12th of May for Amelia’s review, and then I’ll be back on the 26th for the Avengers review. Mouse out.

Mothers, never let your children become playwrights…

At the start of every new year I make an effort to send off some plays to theatres and festivals across the world. This means once again stepping into the realm of madness, chicanery and anti-logic that is the global theatre scene. These are all (ALL!) real calls for submissions from actual theatres and theatre festivals and my reactions to them.
Read, and realise why you should raise your children to be accountants.
Wanted: Scripts that explore our obsessions with pop and sub-culture, and that use that obsession to say something about social equity and systems of oppression.
Would you like to save us both some time and just dictate the play you want me to write?
One-person shows – musical, tragedy, comedy, etc. $55 entry fee. $695 participation fee if selected. Playwright receives quarter of ticket sales.
You mean I only have to give you $750 dollars and if the show makes three thousand I’ll break even? SIGN ME UP!
Musicals only. Playwrights must produce. $25 fee.”
“Pay us $25 dollars and we’ll give you a hernia.”
Hard copy submissions only.
“Yes, we know everyone uses email now and that it’s cheaper and easier both for you and us. We don’t care. We hate trees. A tree killed our dad. We won’t stop until every last one of them is dead.”
Bold stories, writing that takes risks and plays that speak to a modern audience. No restriction on subject matter. UK based writers only.
Oh what, your “modern audiences” who want bold writing that takes risks with unrestricted subject matter can’t handle my foreignness?! COWARDS.
First-time and experienced playwrights are welcome. All theatrical genres accepted (including musicals). $10,000 prize.”
We are good, decent people who actually understand how this is supposed to work.

(more…)

BIG IMPORTANT POST

This is, as the title should indicate, a big important post. Don’t worry. It’s not a “we need to talk” post, or an “I just spoke to the Doctor” post. It’s a cool one. An exciting one. It’s also one that is a little difficult to know where to begin. Firstly, you need to know about a person and you need to know about a thing. The person is this guy:

abey

That guy is Doctor Abraham Campbell (Abey to his friends). Abey is a computer scientist currently lecturing in University College Dublin’s Chinese school in Beijing (UCD has a big campus) and probably Ireland’s foremost mind in the field of virtual reality. He’s also a buddy of mine. That’s the person. The thing is this:

oculus-rift-dk2

In case you haven’t heard of it, that’s the Oculus Rift, the first real, high-quality, no-fooling, virtual-reality headset that is going to be commercially available for sale in early 2016. Now, there’s no way of knowing whether Virtual Reality is going to be just a weird little technological gimmick or a game changer like the smartphone. But we’re going to find out. Soon. This is happening. Abey, who incidentally is the smartest human I know by a significant margin, is betting on the latter. His goal, as he’s told me before, is that one day he’ll be able to hand a headset to someone in Sub-Saharan Africa that will contain an entire third level education. He’s also working on a holographic version of himself that he can broadcast to China so that he doesn’t have to leave home to teach his classes and yeah, I’m just going to play the music now.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, because there’s no point in buying a SNES if there’s no Super Mario to play on it. The platform needs media.

Last year, the readers of this blog helped to fund Joanna, my play about a vigilante who savagely murders rapists as an avatar of the breakdown of civilized society caused by the betrayal of the social contract inherent in the justice system’s complete impotence in dealing with the crime of rape (It’s a comedy). One of the people who saw that play was Abey, and he approached me with an extremely exciting idea. Short version:

We’re turning Joanna into the world’s first full-length, mature virtual reality film.

This is potentially historic. This could, quite literally, be The Jazz Singer of the Virtual Reality era.

Yikes. Maybe "Steamboat Willy" would have been a better analogy?

This could, quite literally, be the Steamboat Willy of the Virtual Reality era.

Much better.

Much better.

Throughout the summer Abey, myself, our extremely talented cast and crew and our director Jeda De Brí have been shooting tests scenes and experimenting with how this whole thing works. I’ll be doing follow up posts where I talk about the challenges of filming in 360 degrees and what we’ve learnt but the short version is this; we are now ready to create something that is thrilling, terrifying, and totally unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. And what’s more, you won’t need an Oculus Rift to view it (although that will certainly give you the best experience). With a decent smartphone and headset you will be able to experience Joanna for yourself. How do you get a headset? I’m getting to it (told you this was a long post). Below you can see our Kickstarter video. The Kickstarter page hasn’t gone live yet so you guys are actually the first outside of the production to see this. (Oh, and there’s some guy we hired to stand in for me because Abey thought that anti-rodent prejudice might affect our ability to raise money and like a coward I listened).

Abey, Jeda, myself and our associated henchpersons have set up a Kickstarter page so that you can give us your money to fund this exciting endeavour. For as the Bible says, is money not the root of all evil? Better off without it, I say, we’ll take care of it for ya. And, as is customary, we will be offering rewards for donations. These are cumulative, with a new reward added to each level which I’ve put in bold. They are as follows:

$1– A thank you, sincere and genuinely felt.
$5– Your name in the credits.
$10- Now we’re talkin’. You get to download your own copy of the movie. (FYI you’ll need a smartphone with a four inch display that can play mp4s.) Plus your name in the credits.
$25- All of the above plus a limited edition Joanna Google Cardboard viewer for a better viewing experience.
DSC_0010 (1)

Summit like this.

$40- A digital download of the movie, the Google Cardboard viewer, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author.
$60- A digital download of the movie, the Google Cardboard viewer, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author and a signed Joanna screenplay.
$75- Now we start getting fancy. You get the movie, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author and a signed Joanna screenplay. And you get a snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer.
http://www.antvr.com/static/img/product-taw.png

Snazzy. As. Bejaysus.

$100- A digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay,  snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer and a Joanna T-Shirt.
$150- A digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay,  snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt and an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson (currently under contract with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin). They’re very constructive and super nice (usually).
$250– Everything on the $150 level plus get out your fanciest duds ‘cos you’re comin’ to the wrap party in Dublin!
$300- Get those fancy duds out a second time because you’re coming to the premiere! Plus, digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay,  snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt, an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson and you’re coming to the wrap party.
$500You get to be part of the Beta, testing footage on Oculus Rift. You’ll get behind the scenes footage and see the film two weeks before it’s released to the public. Plus, you get   everything at the $300 level.
$1000- As you are clearly someone we want to be pals with, how about you come on set and watch us film? Filming will take place in late January/Early February. Come, meet the cast and crew and let us answer any of your questions about VR technology and filming. And of course, you will also get to be part of the Beta, an invite to the wrap party, an invite to the premiere, a digital download of the movie, your name in the credits (probably in big flashing lights), a signed movie poster, a signed screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt , an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson and a partridge in a pear tree*
*Subject to very limited availability.

***

So yes. I’m asking you for money. And as usual, that can only mean one thing:

MOVIE DEATHMATCH!

On November 23 when the Kickstarter page goes up, I will post the 12 movies and TV series that have been selected to compete this year, along with a guide as to how voting will work this year so be sure to check in for that.

So. Yeah. I know it’s all a lot to take in. Also, please share this far and wide. Know somebody who’s interested in VR? This is a really inexpensive way to get their hands on some cutting edge tech, so let them know. Know someone who’s big into gritty female-led drama? This might be for them. Please help us get the word out make this as big as it can be. Any questions, let me know.

Thanks guys, Mouse out.

 

The Unmitigated Gall

Alright, you’re all  probably wondering why there’s going to be such a long break between now and the next review. So I thought I’d do what I usually do in these situations; hold a hypothetical conversation with a mysterious person who only speaks in boldface.
Hey Mouse, why you no review long time?
Good, if rather ungrammatically worded, question MPWOSIB.
To answer that I need to explain something about me.
If the only information you were provided about me was a list of what I eat in a given week, you would conclude the following: This person is not merely fat. He is SO fat that he can neither lift his arms nor fit in a bathtub, meaning that the only way he can bathe is to get the elephants in the carnival that he tours with as an attraction to stand in a circle around him and douse him with their trunks. The delivery guys know me by name, sight and scent. You name it, I have had it delivered to my door; Chinese Food, Pizza, Fish and Chips, this new restaurant down the road that just brings a barrel of lard to your house and pumps it straight into your stomach…
But, oddly enough, I’m pretty much at my ideal weight for a male of my age and height and have been for pretty much all my adult life. For whatever reason, I kinda just don’t put on weight and you hate me now and that’s good.
"Hate keeps a man alive."

“Hate keeps a man alive.”

 

(more…)

First review for Joanna! And it’s GOOD!!

I’ve been writing for a good few years now but I’ve never actually had anything I’ve written reviewed before. And this is kind of a good way to start! Joseph Kearney of No More Workhorse has written an absolutely glowing review of Joanna which is running all this week in the New Theatre. I’m putting up a link HERE, partially because I’m a huge narcissist but also because it was your kind donations that paid for the bribe that got that review made this show possible. Thanks guys.

THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO DONATED!

Well everyone, that wraps her up and I am delighted to say that thanks in large part you guys we have reached our funding target for Joanna! And now I can freely admit that there never was such a play, and I am absconding to Mexico with your donations to live like a filthy pirate king. Good times.

In the meantime though, here is the list of people who donated and an approximate date for your review to go up. As I said in an earlier post, I will try to keep to this schedule but sickness, holidays, computer failures or family emergencies may result in your review getting pushed back and if it does, lo siento mucho. Also, while I did originally say I would be putting up the names of the movies people requested but I think it might be more fun to surprise you at the end of each review so instead I’ve put down the date, the name of the donor and my first reaction on being asked to review that movie. Here we go.

30 January 2014- Amelia Mellor (Oooh. Heard it’s really good.)

27 February 2014- Ryen Rasmus (Oh FUCK YEAH!)

13 March 2014- Michael Tyndall (Ugh.)

27 March 2014- Alan Fowley Doyle (AAAAAAAARRRGGHH)

24 April 2014- James Egan (Ah, that’ll cleanse the palette.)

05 June 2014- Ian Tait Doak (Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…I am thirty fucking years old I should not be this excited.)

03 July 2014- Darragh Ó Bradáin (Okay, you are one of my oldest friends so I will review this movie for you even though it’s not actually an animation and also I did have the theme music played at my wedding reception so okay.)

31 July 2014- Andrew Russell(TETSUO!!!! KANEDAAAAAAAA!!!!)

11 September 2014- Fleur Farwaji (No, no, no, look I can’t review another live action movie you’re donating how much? Okay then.)

09 October 2014- Eamonn Sharpson (You’re lucky you’re my brother or I would punch you in the mouth.)

20 November 2014- Lurking Lurker (Sorry, looks like it’ll be your second choice. Couldn’t find a non dodgy/legal/inexpensive way of getting your first choice)

04 December 2014- Callie Arendt (Yeah. I’ve known I’d have to do this one since the Aladdin review.)

18 December 2014- Veronica Trump (So it’s The Big Sleep with cartoon cats?)

01 January 2015- Zoe Faulder (I really hope Zoe picks a movie otherwise this will be a really dull review.)

15 January 2015-  Conor Kelly (Haven’t seen it but I think this one may cause me to chop onions.)

29 January 2015- Úna Hennessy (Studio Ghibli is always a safe bet, right?)

12 February 2015 – Daniel Austin (They may not dance, but they sure as hell can play the keyboard.)

26 February 2015- Melissa Gola (When they find out I think this one is overrated I am so dead.)

12 March 2015- Sean Egan (How the hell am I supposed to do a funny review of a movie with no dialogue?)

26 March 2015- Juha Tilli (God I hope I can track down a Region 2 copy of this before then.)

09 April 2015- Juha Tilli (again) (What the..What and the Midsummer What?..Huh?!)

23 April 2015- Esther Ní Dhonnacha (Oh God…Ireland’s curse.)

07 May 2015- Chinyere Breitner-Nwizuzu (What is that? A Francis Ford Coppola Yakuza movie?)

21 May 2015- Samantha Doyle (So it’s back to the Bluthiverse…)

04 June 2015- Jacob Charlet (I will review this movie. Because I’m an athlete.)

18 June 2015- Juha Tilli, who by this stage is basically executive producer of this thing. (Ducktales Woohoo!)

02 July 2015- Jennifer Seggio (My, don’t we like to cut things fine?)

***

Now, these are the people who’ve specifically requested a review. If you donated but didn’t get around to asking me for a review and would like one please let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to the list. Or if you did ask me for a review and it somehow slipped through my meticulous filing system (ha!) again, let me know and I’ll fix it. And lastly, if you wanted to request a review and didn’t get a chance this time, don’t worry. I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing this again next year as Mexico is surprisingly expensive we’ll probably be doing another production which I’ll tell you about closer to the time. Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who donated on behalf of myself, my wife and the cast of Joanna. I promise we will work our asses off to make this play the best that it can be and to justify your support and faith in us. Thanks guys.

Mouse

“Increase quality of Theatre Output by 30%”

My friends, let us be frank. This is no mere kerfuffle. It is not even a brouahaha. This is a full on clusterpickle. I refer of course to the controversy following the release by the Irish Times of the findings of the Abbey Theatre’s independent assessment…you have no idea what I’m talking about do you?
Okay, little background. The Abbey Theatre was founded in Dublin in 1902 by WB Yeats and others to showcase Irish writing and culture and played an important part in fostering a sense of unique cultural Irish identity in the early twentieth century. This in turn fed into the political and military independence movements of the time which finally resulted in the creation of an Irish Free State in the twenties. This is why, from 1925 onward the Abbey became the first state-subsidised theatre in the English speaking world, a status it retains to this day (although it is not fully funded by the government and never has been). We can argue about the appropriateness of a theatre being even partially funded by the taxpayer but I would argue that this has been hugely beneficial to both parties. Firstly, the Abbey is a major part of Ireland’s reputation as a literary powerhouse; Yeats, O’Casey, Synge, Hugh Leonard, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness, Tom Murphy, Conor McPhearson…all have worked with and been supported by the Abbey at one time or another, and this commitment to new writing continues to this day. Contrast this with the other venerable institution of the Dublin Theatre scene, the Gate, which now deals almost exclusively in either classics from the theatrical canon that can be assured of a big draw or adaptations of popular novels. That can be assured of a big draw. And that’s not a diss on the Gate, but the fact remains that in a theatre scene as small and yet as fiercely competitive as Dublin’s, there is precious little room for error for a theatre the size of the Gate. One flop could kill them, and when you’re in that situation the last thing you can afford to do is experiment. The next great Irish playwright to emerge will almost certainly emerge from the Abbey, not the Gate, because government funding allows the Abbey to take the chance on the next big thing. And I will be waiting by the phone.
"It's for you." "At last!"

“It’s for you.”
“At last!”

Now, when you receive tax-payer money there is of course a responsibility to ensure that money is being spent well. This is why Fiach MacConghail, the director of the Abbey Theatre, and the Arts Council who provide the Abbey’s funding, asked three independent experts to assess the Abbey’s productions for a year. Honest criticism is very hard to come by in the Irish theatre scene because a) you don’t want to insult someone you may be working with in a few months’ time and b) EVERYBODY KNOWS EVERYBODY. This is why the three assessors were chosen from outside Ireland, an English professor of Irish history and two theatre directors, one English and one Scottish. The resulting report was pretty tough, but then that was the point. This was supposed to be a frank, take no prisoners, tell it like it is sort of report to allow the Abbey to work on areas that needed improvement. And that would have been that. But then, enter the Irish Media…
lightning17
 
The Irish Times requested access to the report from the Arts Council for the full report under freedom of information legislation and published the whole damn thing. Not only that, but they refused a request by Fiach to at least redact the names of the individual actors, writers and directors who came in for criticism by the panel (you can read his dignified response to the whole mess here). Which is what is known in the theatrical world as a “dick move”. It is also known as that in other worlds. And now the Irish theatre scene has basically blown up over this. People are feeling betrayed and humiliated, accusations are flying, critics of the Abbey are crowing like big massive cocks (the birds of course) and basically, in a word: DRAMA.
Now if you’ve come here for a sober and dispassionate take on all this you’ve probably come to the wrong place. I love the Abbey. I go whenever I can get a babysitter, a great many of my friends work there in one capacity or another, they trained me as a playwright for a year, have supported me as a writer for five, staged the first ever professional production of my writing on the Peacock stage. I owe these guys a lot so let me be very clear that I am in their corner here. But I’m not going to dispute or criticise the findings of the panel, who were asked to give their honest opinion and gave it. And that opinion basically boils down to: “We saw twelve plays. Four of them were awesome (though we can’t agree which ones). Five were solid. And there were three that we thought really needed to be better for a professional theatre (although again, we can’t agree which ones).” What I would dispute, however, is the implication by the Irish Times and others that these findings mean that the Abbey is not a “world class” theatre. That somehow, being one of the most historic and storied theatres in the English speaking world that has and continues to foster the best in new Irish writing means nothing unless three individuals go to twelve plays and love every single last one of them. Because theatre doesn’t work like that. No three people will ever agree on what makes a fantastic piece of theatre. I have stood in lobbies after a show cursing the two hours that I will never get back while my wife stands trembling beside me in the still lingering throes of near religious theatrical ecstasy. Some people will now genuinely, with a straight face, say that the Abbey should produce “better plays” or risk losing its funding. Okay. How will you measure that? Write down for me what makes a good play. If it’s financially successful? If it’s “ripped from the headlines” relevant to the present day? If it’s timeless in its themes and message? Creating theatre is not chemistry, it’s alchemy. It’s the fusing of a million different elements, egos, talents, words, hopes, sweat, blood, prayers, fear, madness and a huge big frothy dollop of luck and throwing it onstage and hoping something sparkles in the darkness. It is not something that can be quantified and planned and worked out to the last decimal place (and if it was I sure as hell wouldn’t want to watch it). You cannot increase the quality of Theatre Output by 30%. If there are obvious problems with the way some plays are produced then obviously that should be addressed (which was the point of the whole exercise in the first place). But no theatre can produce exceptional theatre 100% per cent of the time. That’s the whole point. It is exceptionalAll any theatre can do, be it a small parish hall or the National Theatre, is to honestly and whole-heartedly work to make every piece of theatre as good as it can be. Speaking from personal experience, in the Abbey Theatre that is all they ever do. And they will make mistakes. In the words of another Irish writer who never had any sort of relationship with the Abbey because that would make this ending so much more effective, damn it: “Ever try. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”  
NOTE: This post originally stated that the Abbey is the only theatre  in Ireland to receive public funding. This is incorrect, many theatres and theatre companies in Ireland receive some level of government subsidy. Thanks to Derbhle Crotty for the correction.