An Ensemble Gets Ready to Launch a New Theatre in Phibsboro

Hillary Dziminski says she doesn’t see the point of art for art’s sake. “You have to make it for some reason,” she says.

She and others in the theatre troupe The Corps Ensemble are invested in making art for the community, she says. “While making it accessible and interesting.”

Making it accessible should soon get a bit easier – with the launch of The Bohemian Theatre in Phibsboro.

In two cabaret-style rooms above McGeough’s The Bohemian bar, Dziminski and others plan to put on plays, starting with a double bill later this month.

Making It Immersive

It’s “a bit like a black box theatre, in that it can be configured in many different ways”, said Dziminski, last Thursday.

The main room has bar stools around polished-wood tables, and sofas too. At the top of the room is a small stage, elevated a foot off the floor.

It will make for an immersive experience for the audience, says Dziminski, who is the creative producer and company manager for The Corps Ensemble.

The second room is smaller, more intimate. It’s up on the third floor, down winding corridors. That adds to the theatrical experience, says Dziminski.

The first productions planned for the Bohemian Theatre are The Fetch Wilson by Stewart Roche and Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue.

The plays were chosen because of their thriller and fairy-tale themes, says Dziminski. Fitting for the Halloween season.

The Fetch Wilson, which opens on 29 October, is a deep dive into the psyche of a character called Liam Wilson.

It’s a one-man show that takes you through the back alleys and mean streets of Dublin, says Dziminski.

“It’s a psychological thriller,” says Andy Crook, who’s also in The Corps Ensemble. Crook has worked in theatre for nearly 30 years, and trained at the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq.

“It’s got a lot of aspects from traditional Irish storytelling, which is pure magic to watch,” says Crook.

Kissing the Witch, also showing on 29 October, was written first as a novel and later adapted into a screenplay. Dziminzki and Crook are co-directors on that one.

It’s a selection of fairy tales, given new twists. The play takes inspiration from the Brothers Grimm, Dziminski says.

A Warm Welcome

Crook says there are no immediate plans to work with local residents. But he would like, in the future, to run theatre workshops for people in the neighbourhood, he says.

Says Dziminski: “Part of what we want to do is to connect with the community and form a lasting relationship, because they are the ones that we are making it for.”

Finding the venue above The Bohemian was a classic story of the right elements falling into place.

McGeogh's, The Bohemian bar. Photo by Donal Corrigan.

Jed Murray – who lives in Phibsboro and is also a director for The Corps Ensemble – along with Crook, noticed the growth in cultural events and practices in Phibsboro.

But the neighbourhood didn’t have a theatre. Murray mentioned that to Edwin Mullane, a co-founder of The Corps Ensemble.

And Mullane took the idea and ran with it, says Dziminski.

Mullane “ is always coming to me with these mad ideas. And he always manages to pull them off”, she says.

He met people at Phizzfest, the community arts festival in Phibsboro, and was able to connect with the right people to make it happen.

The McGeough brothers, who own The Bohemian, were interested in the idea of a theatre from the get-go, says Dzimniski.

Creating art in the capital has become a challenge for The Corps Ensemble, say Crook and Dziminski.

The venue crisis has hit Dublin theatre too, says Crook. “Theatre ensembles allow you to have more fluid planning for productions and foster a natural process for creating art,” he says.

But the city right now seems to be set up to support individual artists joining together for a production and then separating afterwards, he says. “We don’t fit into that kind of model.”

The Corps Ensemble was set up at the end of 2015, so the group of artists could work together with each other consistently.

“It’s a cosmic group of people. There is willingness there to connect with each other which creates great trust,” says Dziminski.

Living in Phibsboro for the last 20 years, Crook has noticed the changes that the neighbourhood has undergone. TU Dublin’s Grangegorman campus has had spillover effects, he says.

“There is a bloody men’s grooming shop across the street,” Crook says, as he lists off all the trendy cafes and vegan restaurants.

While some changes have been positive, he talks with more than a hint of cynicism.

“What you have is that artists come in, they bring a place up and then they’re thrown out because it becomes too expensive,” he says.

“It’s at a great level at the moment, I have always worried that it will take it one step too far and it’ll be filled with incredibly rich people and no one will be able to buy a ham sandwich,” he says.

[CORRECTION: This article was updated on 23 October at 16:27 to correct Hillary Dziminski’s role at The Corps Ensemble, and where Dziminski’s name was spelt incorrectly, due to editing errors. It was also updated to give the full name of the school where Andy Crook studied.]

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Donal Corrigan: Donal Corrigan is a Dublin-based journalist. To get in contact with him, you can email him on donal.corrigan9@mail.dcu.ie.

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