Written by 5:03 pm Devious News

Stopped Shifting, Got Smitten

I guess the word is turnaround. And it’s been a really quick one. Shifting finished on April 23rd with a sold out show and rapturous response. Well, I think it’s pretty safe to say the audience were in raptus. They stood and clapped and screamed a lot. The dust hadn’t even settled  Within 3 days of it, rehearsals had kicked off for our next production Smitten.

Shifting was a bit of a gamble I guess. A new play from a debuting writer with a cast made up mostly of company newcomers and a subject matter and appeal that was pretty much geared towards teenagers. In fairness, we had little doubts about how good the play or the cast were. We could trust them and our own quality control and hope people would turn up. But that’s where a gamble comes in: audiences responding. We did wonder to ourselves a couple of times if we would get an audience. I guess, it’s something we always think anyway, borne of a well drilled detachment from complacency over the past 5 years. But it’s a valid worry to have when it comes to theatre in 2011. Will audience and material and company mesh? In short, yes. They did.

We got 6 sold out shows and 6 standing ovations. We were fairly blown away by it in fairness. It’s been one of the highlights of my time in Devious Theatre and one of the productions I’m most proud of being part of (if I’m being honest, I think it’s actually my favourite…sshhh). It felt like something really special. It also confirmed something we’ve long suspected: there’s a huge audience out there for original work. If you can market something right and not sit on your laurels in terms of pushing it, then there’s no reason any audience won’t embrace a new show. Well, unless your tickets are ridiculously expensive. Luckily ours weren’t but hey, that’s the point in keeping ’em cheap. It was a big factor in encouraging a young audience to let us entertain them.

Gush warning! The cast were excellent. Excellent to work with, consistent in their delivery, a joy to direct and everything you want in actors: committed, dedicated, reliable and inventive. Toppers, you might say. They absolutely made the play and we were so proud to have them as part of our company. They are all going to go far and it’s safe to say we’ll definitely be using them again… in the future when all’s well! The same goes for the teenage members of our crew who were all committed, dedicated and on the ball.

Particular praise has to be reserved for John Kennedy, the writer, who is just a top man. 6 months ago we got John on board and started work on the play that would become Shifting.  It wasn’t the ideal amount of time for him. It wasn’t the ideal amount of time for us. It’s just how it worked out as we busted through the intense amount of prep for ‘In The Future When All’s Well’. That being said, we knew what we wanted and we knew how it fit into our season. And John knew what he wanted to write. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that he was also delighted to be able to write plenty of ‘fuck’s’ and ‘cocks’ and have no one censor him. We needed to ensure that we gave John all the resources and support he needed and at the beginning of March he delivered a script. His very first completed play. Teenagers get ‘pandered’ to or generally condescended but they rarely get spoken to, honestly and directly, in theatre. That was our main objective. And that was why we wanted a teenage writer to do that. Anything else would just be extrapolation. Shifting was everything we wanted it to be and in the end it was everything a teen audience wanted (not to mention the entertainment craving older folk too). Proof of this was all the teenagers we had flocking to the door to buy the opening night €5 tickets. Cheapskates.

There have been some lovely reviews so far and people have written nice things about the play and some of our cast have also got in on the act and written about it. As part of a season that was all about the future, it not only showcased them but it also showcased the safe hands theatre in Kilkenny (at least) is in. We couldn’t ask for anything more.

Now we’ve started work on Smitten. We were still a little punch drunk from Shifting when we started rehearsals this week but we’ve decided to jump in at the deep end and hit it hard. Now it’s got Scratcher and Shifting to compete with so we’re up against it. I finally pried myself away from the rewrite on Tuesday night and then bam, Wednesday was our first read through. I was happy with how it went and I’m quietly (and non complacently!) confident that it’ll top the last version. For anyone who saw it before when we staged it in 2008, it’s a bit different but not a complete overhaul and for anyone who is looking forward to seeing it for the first time, we think you’ll enjoy it.

The cast are really strong, we’ve a great team working on it and we’re really delighted with the work being done so far. We’ll be making an official announcement on it this week with all sorts of information and more illuminating facts and such like. We’ll also be bigging up and elaborating on a very exciting project we’re proud to be a part of. The post show blues have been whisked away by the flurry of activities around Smitten. God knows what the come down will be like at the beginning of July.

Hey, as long as the audiences show up we’ll be happy. They will show up, right? Right?

John Morton

Director – Shifting / Smitten

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