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


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.


Last few bites…

It’s the last day of the festival already. The rehearsed reading of SHIBARI went really well last night. The cast all round were great. Very well chosen for each of the parts, I could easily imagine them working in a full production. It’s always exciting (and a little dauntíng) to experience a new cast working with a script that I’m so familiar with being performed by the cast that originated the play. Sometimes it’s only when a new cast play the roles that I fully realise what qualities and strengths the play has. Does the humour and emotion transfer from one set of performers to another? Is it extremely different or very similar with the new cast?

The director Rachel West did a great job and I enjoyed that she made a bold decision in creating a visual representation of the theme of the play which grew throughout the reading. Each of the actors had a ball of string that they unravelled and tied as they moved position for each new scene (the play is a series of two-hander ‘meetings’ where there is a different couple every time). As the reading progressed the patterns left by the string became more elaborate and left the connections between each character hanging in the air, the actors had to delicately navigate theír way through the maze of contacts. It was an extra layer of challenge for the performers but they were more than up for the task and the final Image beautifully highlighted all the references in the text to entanglements and patterns of contact that exist in a city the size of Dublin.


It’s been fantastic to be a part of THE FULL IRISH and it feels as though it has been a great success for English Theatre Berlin. There’s two more chances to get a last bite of the festival tonight, Brokentalkers have their final performance of HAVE I NO MOUTH and there’s a reading Enda Walsh’s excellent play PENELOPE. Get in if you can…

I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Berlin, discovering a lot more of the city than when I was briefly here years ago. I’ve made some new friends that I will certainly keep in contact with and I’m very much inspired to come back here sooner than later and hopefull bring more of my work again in the future.

Now, I’m off to be a full on tourist for the next day or so, tschüss!

Run Gary Run

So I found the theatre very easily on Wednesday evening and got to see the reading of Carmel Winter’s B FOR BABY performed by two excellent Irish actors who are based here in Berlin, Jon Smith and Ciara Goss. Afterwards I learned that both of these guys are also appearing in the reading of my play SHIBARI and I was very pleased as they really managed to bring Carmel’s characters to full and quirky life even in the context of a reading.
Yesterday (Thursday), my partner, Aenne, arrived from Dublin to join me for the next few days. She’s in the midst of producing (and preparing to play Elizabeth) in a new Irish production of Schiller’s MARY STUART, and is enjoying a brief break from prep to check out Berlin. In the afternoon we had a wander around the Pergamonmuseum and then sampled another one of the restaurants on Bergmannstrasse near English Theatre Berlin.
Brokentalkers opened there Show HAVE I NO MOUTH last night in ETB. I saw this in the Dublin Theatre Festival last year and it was one of the highlights for me. I found it a very inventive, intense and moving experience to behold and the audience here last night seemed to have a similar reaction. The show is running for two more performances tonight (Friday) and tomorrow. If you’re in Berlin, you should come check it out.
Afterwards I hung out with the Brokentalkers gang and we made a stab at wiping out the ETB bar of Jameson and ginger. I hope they have some left for tonight…
Very much looking forward to meeting the rest of the cast for the reading of SHIBARI this evening. The play was a challenge to cast in Dublin as it features a fairly ecclectic set of multicultural characters. Here in Berlin, the reading will Feature Performers from America, Japan, Germany, and of course a couple from Ireland. The play is a blackly-comic drama set in contemporary post-boom Dublin. It’s a bit funny, a bit sexy, and a little bit twisted. If you’re in Berlin today come and see how that all works! And if you’re reading this from afar, check back tomorrow and I’ll tell you how it went…

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.

Nach Berlin…

The last time I was in Berlin was in 2004. Two very blurry days that left me with a fractured sternum and the middle act of my second play TRANS-EURO EXPRESS. I’m hoping this visit is less painful but equally inspiring.
I’ve got my five day Metro ticket, have just checked into my Hotel, and have probably already cooked myself (I am a paper-skinned Irish Vampire, not used to this sort of balmy May – where’s the rain and wind, volks?) with an extended wander around Friedrichshain, the East Side Gallery and around Alexanderplatz. Already have a better feeling for the geography of the city in those few hours than I managed all those years ago.
Going to seek out the English Theatre Berlin now and commit some more crimes against the German language along the way…

From Dublin with love.

And we’re back home, in Dublin, in Ireland, away from Berlin but still very much thinking of it.

The trip for us was a wonderful experience. After a long tech session we rested up and the  next day, before the first showing of As you are now so once were we, apprehension was abound. How would the audience react to it? Would they like it? Would they hate it? Are we going to be booed of the stage or applauded for trying something new theatrically? Thankfully, it was the latter.

The two showings went down a treat. The audiences were welcoming and receptive. Enjoying the nuances and intellectuality behind the piece as well as the banal narrative which surfaces it’s complicated backbone. Now, at home, we’re left with mixed feelings; grateful and humbled by the reaction  and support from everyone at the theatre and everyone who came to see the shows, and although tired and in need of a little rest, saddened that we couldn’t stay longer. Such was our experience in Berlin.

From the extremely professional staff at the theatre, to the volunteers who very kindly gave up their time to help with the show, to the citizens of the city itself who helped us out whenever we were lost, it was a pleasure to be there.

To take a one of your works to be performed in another country is a great thing, but to have taken it to ETB and have the trip that we had, then it’s a great great great thing!

From us all here at The Company, to everyone we met, we say… wir lieben euch!



“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.

Long day’s journey into Berlin.

We got up at 4 AM on a lovely pre-dawn in Dublin, hopped in a taxi, picked each other up at our respective houses, talked to the driver about what television series we were watching (Breaking Bad), what television series he recommends (Dexter), and what television series we plan on watching (Revolution is very good according to him) and after half an hour through half-empty streets we arrived at the airport.

Dublin airport was very busy. The weekend just gone had been a bank-holiday and cues of people formed everywhere, all bustling to get on their respective flights. We gave a collected sigh at the very thought of checking in our one bag (full of costumes and material we need for the show) but persevered the long winding line of people and eventually checked it in.

In customs, the bag of our production manager Stephen was searched. All that technological equipment he’s carrying always arouses suspicion. The security guard who was conducting the search complemented his bag though, so there’s always a bright side. After the ordeal, we’re pretty sure they became friends. Our seats were located on the back of the plane. We were more than a little excited and boisterous about our trip. So much so in fact, that we’re pretty sure our excited laughter wasn’t appreciated by the passengers surrounding us. If they were coming to perform at the English Theatre Berlin, we’re sure they’d be the same.

The flight was delayed by twenty minutes. It took off. Up in the air we ordered food. Listened to our iPods. Watched movies on out laptops and before we knew it, we were landing in Berlin Schonefeld Airport.

The weather was humid which made a lovely change to the cold spring on Ireland. We picked dup our bag, went though passport control (myself and the security guard laughed at my passport photo taken years ago) and we boarded at train for the city.

By now it was around 11 o’clock in the morning and with the sun shining in through the window we all took turns having a little sleep on the train. Thank god we brought sunglasses.

After checking into our hotel we freshened up and walked down Meringdam, ate pizza and pasta in a restaurant along the way, took a left onto Fidicinstrasa and finally arrived at the English Theatre Berlin. It was three o’clock.

The theatre itself was looking amazing, all the boxes had been made and it was a bustle with everyone working. It’s always a nervous feeling when you bring a show to a different country but seeing that everything was running smoothly and all the material we use for the show was made to such a high standard it instantly put any worry we had aside. Although very tired (from the traveling and the enormous lunch) the excitement kicked back in and after trying out some of the choreography from the show on the stage, we all cannot wait to do our first performance on Thursday evening.

Saying goodbye to all the staff, we went around the corner and enjoyed our first german beer. Relaxing in the sun, we couldn’t help but fee a little guilty that the tech crew were back in the theatre doing a great job making sure everything will be ready for the tech day tomorrow. But when thoughts of Berlin theatre goers coming to see us perform floated back into our minds, the nervousness and excitement took over.

The show is very physical; so soon we’ll be sweating and rehearsing and adapting the show to the performance space here in the English Theatre, but for now, let’s relax. And rest.

We went back to the hotel, chatted, watched some TV and drank copious amounts of tea. By 10 o’clock we decided to go to bed and get as much rest as we can for tomorrow.

Lying in bed I could’t stop thinking the same thought, that it truly is lovely to be here in Berlin.


Brian & The Company

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.