BWW Review: THE REHEARSAL, PLAYING THE DANE at The Abbey Theatre

BWW Review: THE REHEARSAL, PLAYING THE DANE at The Abbey Theatre

Anthony Morris, Conor Madden and Fionn Walton in Pan Pan's The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane at the Abbey Theatre. Photography by Ros Kavanagh.

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF ART...

Pan Pan Theatre Company presents the 10th incarnation of The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane since its premiere at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2010. Director, Gavin Quinn wields his poetic license to challenge and stimulate his audience in this experimental production.

Following a thought-provoking historical prologue by Dr. Amanda Piesse, the show opens in the charged atmosphere of an audition room. Three earnest young men are all vying to play Shakespeare's most coveted character. Anthony Morris, bare-chested and brimming with spirit and fervor; Fionn Walton, sullen and restrained with a brazen Dublin accent; and Conor Madden a genial clown with flopsy hair and a dubious tale of a prior stage combat injury.

The gentlemen draw deeply from their personal cache as they portray three distinctive interpretations of the Danish Prince. The remaining cast weaves comically into the audition process delivering lines as Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, and Horatio. The first act closes with the audience being called upon to choose their prince.

On opening night, it is Conor Madden who steps gravely into Hamlet's revered shoes. What follows is a rapid-fire montage of scenes which draws the audience relentlessly into the pandemonium. Seventy minutes of tumult: warring with words, battles of the mind, clashes with the sword and cold-blooded murders. Pan Pan's avant-garde production presents all the delicious elements of a Shakespearean tragedy reinforced with 'smoke' and mirrors, blinding lights, blood-curdling clatter, whispered echoes and the handsome Mr. D'Arcy, a Great Dane.

BWW Review: THE REHEARSAL, PLAYING THE DANE at The Abbey Theatre

Cast members in Pan Pan's The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane at the Abbey Theatre. Photography by Ros Kavanagh.

Designer Aedín Cosgrove's sets are visually striking. Act 1 is quintessentially Scandinavian: simple and clutter free, lined with the Danish flag and flanked with a single audition table. In Act 2 the stage, resembling a Warhol print, is dominated by an incongruous parade of large tin bins.

Performance highlights include performers from Dublin Youth Theatre, in particular Penny Morris as the player, Hamlet (the play within a play in this production was Hamlet yet again, replacing The Murder of Gonzago). Anna Sheils McNamee was luminous, with a poignant and arresting portrayal of Ophelia. Daniel Reardon was superb as Polius. He mischievously injected humor into his murder and later appeared wholly dignified delivering a discourse whilst standing in a bin. Conor Madden's emotional performance brought to mind Bradley Cooper's portrayal of The Elephant Man on Broadway. Madden physically transforms before us as he assumes the heavy mantle of Hamlet. And the incredible audition tale of his stage combat injury is indeed true!

BWW Review: THE REHEARSAL, PLAYING THE DANE at The Abbey Theatre

Anna Sheils McNamee in Pan Pan's The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane at the Abbey Theatre. Photography by Ros Kavanagh.


Winner of the 2010 Irish Times Theatre Awards for Best Set Design and Best Production, this edgy production of Playing the Dane continues to draw theatergoers judging from this evening's captivated audience. Run if you relish the eccentric and unconventional but be warned, this is not for the faint of art.

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From This Author Jini Rooney

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