English Theater Berlin
International Performing Arts Center
The Full Irish
10 days of contemporary Irish theatre and Performance
May 9 – 18, 2013

Author - Mary Kelly

Mary is an Irish playwright and an actor, living in Berlin. She trained at The Gaiety School of Acting Dublin. Since graduating she has written, produced and performed her own work and has freelanced as an actor and playwright. Five of her plays have been produced, two of which are published - Unravelling the Ribbon (co-written with Maureen White) and Two for a Girl. Unravelling the Ribbon is currently being translated into French. It was originally produced by Gúna Nua, performed at Project Arts Centre in 2007 and toured nationally in 2008. Unravelling the Ribbon had its U.S. premiere in 2010 in Nashville Tennessee, produced by Tennessee Women’s Theater Project. Mary has been commissioned to write two plays for The Gaiety School of Acting Youth Theatre – The Great Experiment (2008) and Never is an awfully long time (2010), produced by the Gaiety School and performed at Project Arts Centre. In 2011 Mary was commissioned to write a play for an EU initiatitiate - I was thinking of your Dreams - which was be staged in Valencia last year. In 2012 Big Telly Theatre Company commissioned her to write their autumn production The Scarlett Web which had an Irish and UK tour.

Germans queued up for The Full Irish

Last night Brokentalker’s production – ‘I Have No Mouth’  ended with hundreds of balloons being released over the audience, this was also the ending of the festival. In the production it symbolised a lightness, a healing of sorts,  a sense of coming out the other side of a question, a time to play and hope. It was a beautiful ending to a powerful production and a fitting ending to the closing of the festival. The audience played with the balloons, sending them all directions, the performers did too.

Having performed twice this week with two different casts and directors, having seen almost everything the festival has to offer and having written about it along the way, it is likely that I’d have another Jameson hangover and be a tad tired today.

I don’t and I’m not.

Work from Beckett, Roddy Doyle, Brokentalkers, Gary Duggan, The Company, Rachel West, Ciara Goss,  Claudia Schwartz, Shauna Tohill, Carmel Winters, Daniel Brunet, Günther Grosser, Chang Nai Wen, Conor Lovett, Judy Hegarty Lovett, John Smith and many many more. The many more include actors, technicians, front and back of house staff and volunteers. And then there is the audience. They came in big numbers with open minds and generous clapping durations. The atmosphere all week was warm and open and excited. The shows posed grim and challenging questions, had audiences choking on laughter, angered some, softened others, there were lengthy conversations and about ‘why, how and who?’  afterwards over drinks outside on balmy Berlin nights.

There is no hangover, no tiredness, in fact the opposite. A discussion has begun, there is a lightness, maybe even a healing of sorts,  a sense of coming out the other side of a question, perhaps even a time to play and hope.

Audiences and performers will play with balloons together again after hard questions and live truths.

Günther Grosser of English Theatre Berlin brought the first ever Irish Theatre Festival to Berlin. It was a  success.


Generous German Audiences and Ticking Clocks

The Irish performers are enjoying the generosity of the German audience. Three standard curtain calls at the end of a rehearsed reading comes as a welcome surprise. Günther has put together a variety of quality work made possible by exposing himself to a great deal of Irish theatre over the years, so to perform in or attend this festival has meaning.

To be in the building and see Irish theatre technicians going about the business of making it possible, is at first completely normal. The same guys work in theatres in Dublin, where I also worked when I lived there. They will be working there again next week. Theatres don’t ever feel location specific so when passing a familiar techie,  in English Theatre Berlin the other day, both he and I nodded like everything is how it should be. It took a beat to realise our greeting should be a little more emphatic, we’re in Berlin after all, in the Irish Theatre Festival, which, by the way, is running out. On Saturday night the last page will be turned and until then there is much to experience. If it sounds like I’m flogging it thats because I am. It’s not going to last forever and if you do decide to catch what you can, book. Really. It has seen many fuller than full houses already.

Günther hand picked four contemporary Irish plays to be presented as rehearsed readings. Something has happened. Many theatre practitioners living in Berlin  have been gathered and poured into rehearsal spaces to tell these stories. New connections have been made. Ones that I don’t doubt will yield more storytelling, some of which wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

While the impact of the work Günther, Daniel, their team and Culture Ireland might extend passed this festival, on Saturday the little bit of Ireland that has risen up in the last week will disperse into the WG’s of Berlin and the shores of Ireland and there will be no grasping it then.

I feel it’s not too soon to say that we’re all the better for it. You can be too.


“Fuck was the best word. The most dangerous word. You couldn’t whisper it. Fuck was always too loud, too late to stop it, it burst in the air above you and fell slowly right over your head. There was total silence, nothing but Fuck floating down. For a few seconds you were dead, waiting for Henno to look up and see Fuck landing on top of you. They were thrilling seconds-when he didn’t look up. It was a word you couldn’t say anywhere. It wouldn’t come out unless you pushed it. It made you feel caught and grabbed you the minute you said it. When it escaped it was like an electric laugh, a soundless gasp followed by the kind of laughing only forbidden things could make, an inside tickle that became a brilliant pain, bashing at your mouth to be let out. It was agony. We didn’t waste it.”
― Roddy DoylePaddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

Tomorow night 8pm we have a reading of Roddy Doyle’s perfectly drawn play ‘Guess who’s Coming for Dinner’. Come. You will laugh.

Ireland adopts Günther Grosser

My blogs are supposed to discuss the festival from the perspective of an Irish artist living in Berlin and to speak of my experiences living in Berlin. I will be keeping the latter short today for reasons that will become clear in the next line.

I’m so busy I’m riding my front-basketed, wide-handled, chill-out-and-watch-the-world-go-by bike, like a racer. Nearly choked on my own hair yesterday.

The Company opened the festival on Thursday to a packed house. It was quite brilliant. When the lights went up I was only able to spend half a second reminiscing about a show Brian Bennet and I did in 2007. A production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Storytellers Th Co) with The Irish Chamber Orchestra playing Mendelssohn’s overture throughout. Now I live in Berlin and Brian is on a stage with three other actors and lots of boxes. No orchestra. A piece of advice: Never allow an orchestra to overture or underscore or come near your performance because no entrance stage left or right will ever be the same again.
My reminiscence exploded and I was sucked into As you are now so once were we. No orchestra needed. The fire in and precision of these performers is arresting.

Before the show Günther, the artistic director of English Theatre Berlin spoke briefly about his relationship with and impressions of Irish theatre since the 1970s. He spoke about it in a way that made one want to know more so I asked Günther for more and this is what he said:

“For decades I’ve enjoyed Irish theatre shows a lot, for several different reasons: the intriguing mixture of both historically and socially relevant shows – shows dealing with Irish history and shows dealing with contemporary Ireland, plus, most importantly, the fun of making theatre – always impressed me when I saw Irish shows in Dublin or in Edinburgh. Or plays, new Irish plays. From Enda Walsh of the mid 1990s to McPherson, Carr all the way to the newest plays of our time. There seems to be a very good, very strong and profitable connection between the Irish literature tradition and new young writers; both a pride to continue something and an urgency to express what´s at stake now.
What I found puzzling on the other hand was that these shows hardly ever had any international visibility, weren´t invited to the bigger European festivals, with the exceptions of a Rough Magic show here or a Pan Pan show there, or of course Conor Lovett,  but not with a regularity that the Dublin scene actually deserves to be present on the international theatre map.

I wanted to show that it´s possible, with the little impact that we can make here in Berlin.

On top of that – I like Dublin and the festival atmosphere there. I´m not one of those huge Ireland fans, travelling there every year, buying a house there and so on but I love the city of Dublin, enjoy being there every time. The annual International Theatre Exchange is excellently organised by the ITI and a fantastic opportunity to meet international theatre makers over a few days. I´ve been to many festivals over the last 20 years but I don´t think you can meet as many interesting colleagues from around the planet within just a few days in a relaxed atmosphere as you can during the ITE except maybe the British Council showcase in Edinburgh every other year but this is a lot more hectic.”

Dear Ireland,
Adopt Günther.
See you in June when I go home for my sister’s wedding.

Check the calender for tonight. A panel discussion on Beckett and what promises to be a really beautiful concert.

Come with us

I finally got my chicken and chips at Hühnerhaus, sunny day so long queue. While ordering I remembered J’s words ‘Every time you speak German a German drops dead’. It’s my pronunciation apparently. Sat on the steps outside Edelweiss in Görlitzer Park and rammed half a chicken down my neck. M called at noon. T was having a black tie party that had started at 8am in Prenzlaur Berg and not that many people turned up, so we should go, you know – ‘to be sound.’ Electronic music, a DJ, his basement, no daylight, black tie. I decided not be to sound.

There was that unicyclist in the middle of the path – unicycling and juggling, the very same one I’ve seen do the very same thing in front of traffic at red lights. He cycles away when the lights go green. How does he get paid or does he just do it to cheer up the drivers?

Met the writing group on Pflügerstraße, they were making a day out of brunch, sitting outside, green city – as edible as the brunch. We talked about Sally’s short story and Tony’s writing block. Then I met K, the set designer who was set painting the play thats running time is 14 hours. We were going to see if we could sit through it. We lasted 45 mins. Lots of nudity, fake blood and mess. K would be doing a lot of re painting the following day. Mauerpark karaoke was infinitely more entertaining and the sun was still peeping over the no hills of Berlin.

We met M in formal wear and went to a gig in someone’s apartment in Friedrichshain. We sat on their couch and reclined into three singer song writers while drinking tea.
On wandering outside still sewn up in the music K suggested we return to 14 hour show to see the end.

The end was rather like the middle and K decided at 2:30am to get to work, the set had been decimated.
H was graduating from puppet school the following week and they were rehearsing through the night for a morning puppet show at their theatre, so M and I decided to go watch them. The smell of practice in a theatre. I could curl up and go to sleep on the tension of a tech. And I did.

Tomorrow was Sunday and it was a gallery weekend and if Berlin has anything it has galleries and I would…

The Irish theatre Festival is coming to Berlin. In three days it will kick off. From the 9th of May to the 18th be prepared to meander nightly through its line up. Seriously meander nightly through its line up because it’s varied and strong. Coming once will rob you of the full picture. There are many pictures. But it’s Berlin and there is so much to do and sample and happen upon, so very many pictures already, so why should an Irish Theatre Festival draw the Berliner?

You will have to take the word of an Irish playwright and actor (me) whose been living in Berlin for two years with all the artly delights a heart could desire, yet she counts the days to Irish Theatre Fest because if there is anything she misses about home, it’s exactly that which is getting on a plane tomorrow to make its way here. Now she will stop talking about herself in the third person.
Come with us and feel free to drop your comments here along the way. I will continue to talk about here and there and what happens over the nine days in English Theatre Berlin.
Join us for readings and plays and music. Dare I say, join us like you join Paddy’s Day – there’s probably no comparison except you’re welcome and you won’t regret it.