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Practice Makes Perfect – The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane – Abbey Theatre

“There’s something strange in the neighbourhood of contemporary Denmark. Who are you going to call? That is the question.”

The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane – Abbey Theatre – 23 – 26 May 2018

Photography by Ros Kavanagh

Conventional wisdom would say that experimental theatre is a niche pursuit. These productions have short runs in small venues to a collection of interested souls and are never seen again. This is not the case with The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane. It actually started life in the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2010 and has been performed all over the globe since then, including Melbourne, Ohio, New York and Wuzhen (China). Yes, this production has endured and for one main reason, it’s a lot of fun!

Pan Pan’s production of Playing the Dane takes a quizzical look at the play. It dismantles it, keeps the bits it likes and adds a few extras for luck. It starts with a lecture from Dr. Amanda Piesse on theatrical instability, a concept that is largely unknown outside academic circles. There are three versions of the text of Hamlet in existence, each slightly different from the others and we can only speculate on which is closest to Shakespeare’s original.

The next section is an audition for the main role, that of Hamlet himself! We get to meet three hopefuls and hear them perform sections of the text in front of the director. Each actor has their own interpretation of the role, putting different slants on their performance.

The production also draws on the real life experiences of the actors involved, who relate their own memories of the play, from their experiences in school to different productions they have seen on stage. We also hear of Conor Madden’s story as he was badly injured during the sword fight scene in another production of the play. The audience is unsure of the veracity of these stories and nervous laughter fills the air of the theatre. After the interval the production takes another view and sticks relatively closely to the script, performing key scenes with their own unusual twist.

The work of designer Aedín Cosgrove is also worthy of a mention, especially in the second act. The gravedigger scene is particularly impressive as the stage is flooded with dry ice which creates a malevolent and creepy air. There are many playful and inventive touches in the lighting and design, and she is given much ground to cover in this constantly evolving work.

This is obviously not aimed at purists or those expecting a traditional performance of the play. It delves into the text and explores many aspects and ideas that are rarely seen. As the production explores the cast’s own experiences, each production is unique as the actors have changed significantly over the years. Pan Pan are one of the most inventive theatre companies in Ireland and this is possibly their finest work. It’s a must see for fans of theatre with a twist.

Performer: Andrew Bennett
Performer: Conor Madden
Performer: Anna Sheils McNamee
Performer: Anthony Morris
Performer: Gina Moxley
Performer: Amanda Piesse
Performer: Daniel Reardon
Performer: Fionn Walton
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Rhys Coleman Travers
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Eoin Fullston
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: David Kearney
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Melia McEvoy
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Penny Morris
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Charlotte Murphy
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Tristan Spellman Molphy
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Aoife Connolly-O’Sullivan
Dublin Youth Theatre Performer: Lee Stafford

Director: Gavin Quinn
Designer: Aedín Cosgrove
Costume and Prop Design: Sarah Bacon
Assistant Director: Kathryn Hamilton
Assistant Designer: Grace O’Hara
Producer: Aoife White
Production Manager: Rob Usher
Stage Manager: Sara Gannon
Assistant Stage Manager: Aaron Kennedy
Chief LX: Lisa Mahony
Dramaturg: Simon Doyle

 

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