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The following review appears in the current edition (July 8th 2011) of The Munster Express, penned by Liam Murphy who was in attendance at the Monday performance of Smitten. We would like to thank Liam and The Munster Express for taking the time out to travel to Kilkenny for each of Scratcher, Shifting and Smitten as part of our residency here at No. 76 and carrying words like these in the papers. The online world can only get you so far and we’re absolutely aware of and thankful for the support of traditional and broadcast media throughout the residency and the past five years of The Devious Theatre Company.

John Morton and Suzanne O'Brien in Smitten

The Review

The excellent Devious Theatre Company completed their residency with Kilkenny Arts Office with an updating of another John Morton play – Smitten – a Kilkenny love story, a play that wants to be a musical. As ever there is a newness, a freshness, an in-your faceness about Devious that does not have a Waterford equivalent – mores the pity. They seem to assemble excellent casts, time after time and convert spaces into site-specific performance places.

Smitten is a contemporary love story, as evocative as the movie Love Actually and as episodic. But by introducing a song and dance approach you got a trivialisation that is the staple of moon and June, Singing In The Rain type shows.

In Act I the stage changes to song and dance mixed with sketch type Fast Show routines diluted the contemporary mes- sage and even the bad guys and girls were beneath it all, good people – In The Future When All’s Well.

However, in Act II a more edgy darker story emerged but drunks were good drunks addicts didn’t OD and people agreed to begin again, give it another go, another lash as it were. Once again, the individual work of the ten person cast was impressive.

Director and writer John Morton played a pivotal role as easy-going tattoos Tommy but maybe this was a dance too far. Amy Dunne was a wonderful contradiction as the librarian who swore a lot. Ken McGuire was Dave the unemployed, remorseful drunk and he made the most of his appearances. David Thompson becomes characters and I loved his emigrating carpenter whose hands were always in bandages. He was the accident that kept on happening. Suzanne O’Brien was luminous as the ditsy Daffney Molloy was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz but there was no Yellow Brick Road in Kilkenny. However, it was Annette O’Shea as Clare the nurse who went and came back that brought a quality to an amazing place. I felt the standing ovation was particularly for her and a theatre company who make new theatre, obviously.

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A question for every member of the cast of our current play Smitten.

Ken McGuire (Dave / Producer)

What was your reaction to the uptake of singing and dancing in this version?

I’m all over it. There wasn’t half enough dancing in Cannibal! (2007) and the last time I danced on stage I wound up getting shot in the head as a result. I learned my lesson. Flash forward four years though and I’m looking forward to it. The dance rehearsals have been good craic and fair play to Gemma for putting up with us for the past few weeks. If you’re able to get over the fact that you’re dancing and prancing around like an eejit, then you’re sorted.

Amy Dunne (Cat)

Considering you’ve done 2 plays as part of the same season. Have you found any similarities with the concerns of your character here and your character in Scratcher?

Similar to Cat, McC was frustrated and wanted to take control of her situation. Cat is alot more reserved in her emotions but still manages to get her point across. McC however is alot more spontaneous in her actions and doesn’t think things through as much. McC would definitely beat Cat in a physical fight but I’d imagine Cat would tear McC to shreds verbally. They’re great ladies really!

John Morton (Writer / Director / Tommy)

So where next for Smitten? A book? The big screen? Another version in three years time with even more dancing and singing?

I’d love to do it again in 3 years but I think it would probably be more beneficial to use the same characters when I’m in my 30’s to talk about my 30’s. I have a screenplay and there has been some interest in it (which is me not trying to jinx it by saying from where) so I think ideally, I’d love to see it being made into a film. But yeah, I’ve been writing those characters since I was 17 and I figure I’ll get a lot more out of them. Whether people want to listen to them or not is another thing entirely.

Kevin Mooney (Niall)

Having directed and produced so many plays for us, were you excited to just be acting this time?

Yes. It’s nice to just worry about your own performance. I haven’t been onstage in quite a while though, so I was a bit nervous about getting back into it and shaking the dust off. But I’m really enjoying concentrating on the acting side of things. It’s been both relieving and terrifying.

Lynsey Moran (Ailbe)

Do you think the play gives an accurate view of Kilkenny? Or just not at all?

This play does show a side to Kilkenny, the side that we see when we’re in our twenties and do not know where our lives are going! Kilkenny is a beautiful place but like every twenty year old, we all need to leave at some point!

David Thompson (Kevin)

You weren’t in Smitten the last time. Seriously, what did you think of it?

I sat with Eddie Brennan who kept making snide remarks about the actors, he thoroughly ruined my theatrical experience. When he wasn’t talking, I really liked it, and all my friends were in it! This Smitten is much better though…

Maria Murray (Bronagh)

How have you found dance rehearsals on this production?

I have this theory that John and Gemma have actually collaborated to dance us all to death. Feeling a pain in places I never knew existed. But it is so much fun but fast, so many fast dances. Thursday mornings were my favourite rehearsals because at least when you were doing something embarrassing everybody else was right there doing it as well.

Annette O’Shea (Claire)

Your character Claire is pretty much the lead in this production. How have you been finding it?

The lead? I think it’s more of an ensemble! I have been finding it… tough I guess. But very exciting and exhilarating, the craic is had everyday.  I never take for granted how lucky I am to be working with such a brilliant company and so to be apart of that ensemble is fantastic. I am just out of college going into an uncertain business in an uncertain time so to be blessed with acting work of a professional standard is great. I get to work with amazing actors and an amazing company who have taught me so much. I am currently going through a time of great transition in my own life, like Claire, so I can certainly relate to her situation in a small way. That helps. I am really looking forward to getting onstage and giving Claire a chance to say her piece.

Jack O’Leary (Tony)

So, what’s your favourite musical and why?

Coincidentally enough The Wizard Of Oz because of the very clear literal views on what the characters are, view and want. Its actually quite simplistic and basic story telling but with a unique sugar coating that I’ve never seen before… Also it works really well with Dark Side of The Moon when you’re baked.

Suzanne O’Brien (Daffney Molloy)

You’re being well kept out of all the promotion (apart from this). How does that feel?

Ah sure lookit, it’s grand. It’s fun to be the character who’s doing something a little different to everyone else.

Smitten plays Kilkenny Arts Office from June 26th – July 2nd at 8pm nightly. It marks the final part of their In The Future When All’s Well residency. Tickets can be bought here in the Arts Office or booked on 0861048191. Online bookings can be made at tickets.devioustheatre.com

Testing… testing… is this thing on?

It’s the morning of January 25th which means that we’re now, officially, a fortnight into the our residency at No. 76. It’s actually been that action-packed and that non-stop with building, decorating, reading, rehearsing, eating, boiling of kettles, running around, dancing, prancing, singing, falling, hanging posters, watching DVDs and so much more that we haven’t had a second to get to the blog. Seriously. Ish.

Allow myself to introduce… myself… I’m Ken (McGuire), one of two Devious Theatre contributors you’ll find on the blog here for the next six months as we recount tales to others on the goings on of our theatrical residency at the Kilkenny Arts Office.

As a background to this, we (as a company) were invited by Mary Butler to take part in the residency scheme here in the latter stages of 2010. Between myself, John (Morton) and Paddy (Dunne), we devised a scheme and a theme for the residency, one of our biggest undertakings in the near five years that we’ve been functioning as a company. In the past we’ve produced works such as Heart Shaped Vinyl (2006/7), Cannibal! The Musical!! (2007), Trainspotting (2008), Smitten (2008), Stags and Hens (2009), Accidental Death Of An Anarchist (2009) and Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay (2010). We’ve also won some awards along the way including a PPI radio drama award for The War Of The Worlds (2008). We’ve dabbled in Shakespeare with devised performances of Shakespeare In Bits (2009) and now, after all of that, we’re undertaking to produce not one, or two, but three full-length productions inside a six-month window, a new radio drama and a series of rehearsed readings to develop new work.

That’s what the residency is all about for us.

Developing new work.

We’ve been given a golden opportunity (and our repeated thanks again to Mary, Niamh and Kilkenny County Council for their support over the years and again this year with the residency) to develop as professional, as a company, to create new work and nurture new actors and writers. We’re taking on people we’ve never worked with before, we’re branching into areas of theatre we haven’t worked in before (at least in our guise as Devious) and we’re doing is all from the cosy confines of No. 76 John Street.

We invite you to the Arts Office to sample the delights of residency titled In The Future, When All’s Well. For all is not well and all is not certain. We’re currently midway through the rehearsal process for our first production of 2011, Scratcher, written and directed by John Morton. After that we’ll be moving on to Shifting, written by John Kennedy, a young writer we have taken on board for the term of the residency and come June we’ll have arrived at Smitten, a show produced in 2008 to great local acclaim but now rejigged, refreshed and all-singing all-dancing.

We’re going to get you up to speed with everything over the next few days in terms of Scratcher, pending auditions for Shifting, a scheduled appearance at a festival of new theatre in Dublin and much more.

If you’re passing No. 76, do drop in. You may find us in rehearsal, you may find us playing some kind of ball game, you may find us sitting at a desk hammering out emails, running poster designs, chatting on Facebook, you never know. The point is, the door is (almost) always open. The front windows have been taken over by a display of some of our artwork over the years and we’ve got daily screenings of our past productions on DVD as well so if you’ve missed a show, you’re welcome to pop in and catch one on the big screen (wall).

We’ll be back again shortly…

***

You can follow The Devious Theatre Company on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or drop by DeviousTheatre.com. If you want to contact the company at any stage, drop into the Arts Office and look for Ken or John or email info@devioustheatre.com.

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Art at No. 76

The aim and focus of the Art Residency at No. 76 is to enable the successful applicant to research and develop their practice. Other aims of the residency are to: give insights into how and why artists create their work, build relationships and further promote the Arts, provide an awareness and further appreciation of the Arts, cultivate and develop new audiences. The Kilkenny Arts Office is part of ArtLinks.ie

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