Dublin Theatre Festival reviews: The Great Hunger, and To Be A Machine – Irish Examiner

The Great Hunger

IMMA

Four Stars

The Abbeys promenade production around the grounds of IMMA is the only live show to survive the dreaded Phase 3 Covid-19 protocols at this years Dublin Theatre Festival.

It divides the 14 stanzas of Patrick Kavanaghs titular long poem between individual performers, with troubadours leading the small, masked audience through the autumn evening.

We set out between two lines of illuminated trees, lured the stark, unmistakable voice of Lisa ONeil. Then, Liam Carney appears between the potato drills: old Patrick Maguire, the peasant farmer, clay made flesh. He stayed with his mother till she died/At the age of ninety-one.

By then, he was sixty-five". This is his tragedy; through it, Maguire personifies in Kavanaghs indictment the poverty, conservatism, and sexual frustration of the rural Ireland he knew.

While the satirical target might not be as obvious as it was when Kavanagh wrote The Great Hunger in 1942, the poem lends itself to dramatisation, thanks to Kavanaghs deft portraiture and his ability to conjure a telling scene.

It also, of course, speaks to the universal. Lines like Sometimes they did laugh and see the sunlight or something was brighter a moment have a sudden poignancy now.

Meanwhile, of the performers, Derbhle Crotty in particular shines in an intimate, captivating scene. Her aliveness to the words, her movement, her expressiveness are a wonder a reminder of the great hunger within us all for the kind of moments only theatre can deliver.

To Be a Machine

Project Theatre

Four Stars

Last year, Dead Centre gave audiences an empty stage for their ghost play Becketts room. This time, things are reversed: an actor is present, but the theatre is empty.

Game of Thrones star Jack Gleeson is the man in the room, playing the writer Mark OConnell in a faithful exploration of the ideas in his acclaimed book on transhumanism, To Be a Machine. The framing of the show gives ample scope for playful echoes and illustrations of OConnells themes.

To begin with, for instance, we are asked to upload videos of ourselves in advance of the performance. We see them on the night: electronic, disembodied versions of ourselves on individual tablet screens where the audience would be.

No better way, then, to discuss such things as the US company Alcor, which preserves its customers disembodied heads in the hope of reanimation; or whole brain emulation and the philosophical questions such a technology would raise.

Both shows end on October 10; for more, check out dublintheatrefestival.ie

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Dublin Theatre Festival reviews: The Great Hunger, and To Be A Machine - Irish Examiner

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