My Dad’s Blind by Anna Shiels-Mcnamee, winner of Best Production at the Dublin Fringe Festival 2018.
Inspired by raw audio recordings, this is a true story about Anna's blind Dad. Examining misplaced pity in all its guises, this is an irreverent look at what happens when a parent loses his sight while his daughter loses her mind. A story about sight-loss, family dysfunction and all the embarrassing, awkward, ridiculous ways they try to get by in a sighted world with a blind Dad and a guide dog that’s just had a stroke.
Directed by Gemma Aked-Priestley and co-produced with Pan Pan Theatre. Funded by The Arts Council/An Chomairle Ealaíon. Developed at FRINGE LAB with the support of Dublin Fringe Festival.
Photos: Ste Murray
The Irish Times
My Dad’s Blind review: Singular vision of a life marred by blindness
Dublin Fringe Festival: Two-hander is marked by visual flair and dark comedy.
MY DAD’S BLIND
Space Upstairs, Project Arts Centre
★ ★ ★ ★
If the aim of Anna Sheils-McNamee’s two-hander is to evoke the disorientation and capriciousness of going blind, it succeeds in both substance and style. An unnamed girl (Sheils-McNamee) cares for, and fights with, her father (David O’Meara), who has lost his sight as an adult. As they untangle the past, the present unravels, in chaotic, unpredictable fashion. As if underlining the cruelty of blindness, Gemma Aked-Priestley’s production for Pan Pan has a flair for the visual. The luminous set is dotted with props that facilitate physical action and dark slapstick, the minimalist look gradually disappearing under the detritus generated by the gleefully nonsequential narrative twists. There is an aural aspect, too, in the form of disconcertingly loud yet confessional recordings. But it is not a bleak piece, nor is it artificially uplifting. At its core lies an astringent comic sensibility and a lively theatrical imagination, brought to life by the energetic performers. All in all, a singular vision of a potentially difficult subject.
Passing is a new play written by Indigo Griffiths and directed by Gemma Aked-Priestley, that exposes the controversial practice of “racial passing” – the use of skin colour as a form of social currency:
Chicago. 1941. Joey, John and Eliza are siblings, but their lives are about to take different paths. Joey is embracing the New Negro Movement, John is breaking barriers at college and Eliza is preparing to pass as white. In a world where everything is determined by race, what can you gain by concealing who you are, and more importantly what can you lose?
Passing is an epic family drama that provokes thought on identity, race and feminism through powerful language, live music and unforgettable characters. Passing is the only production of its kind that gives centre stage to the mixed-race experience in the form of a well-made play.
Indigo and Gemma have been collaborating on Passing since August 2016. They are currently working towards an Autumn 2019 premiere. In June 2017 they shared a scratch performance of the piece at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington. In August 2017 they undertook Arts Council funded R&D at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres which culminated in an industry sharing of selected scenes at The Bunker Theatre. In March 2018 they shared a rehearsed reading at RADA supported by Women@RADA. In June 2018 Passing was longlisted for Theatre Royal Haymarket (Pitch Your Play) and the Bush Theatre Script Submission.
If you are venue or a producer who is interested in the piece please get in touch.
Gemma directed the European premiere of Gracie by Joan MacLeod at the Finborough Theatre.
This one-woman show starred Carla Langley (The Ferryman, Cuddles, Liola). Carla was nominated for an Off West End Best Female Performance Award.
"God doesn’t talk to girls. But He listens. I pray for God to tell Mr. Shelby to find me a husband who’s sweet and kind and not too old."
Gracie was born into a polygamous religious community, and brought across the US border to Canada at the age of eight, when her mother became the eighteenth wife of an elder there. A lively and irrepressible child, her world is full of faith and family, but by the time she is fifteen, and at marriageable age, she feels increasing pressure to conform…but will she ever dare to take the leap and step into the outside world?
A gripping and tender story about growing up in a religious cult by Joan MacLeod, winner of Canada’s most prestigious literary award, the Governor General’s Award.
This play is a work of fiction, inspired by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) communities in Canada and the U.S. Gracie, and all other characters and the events mentioned in the play, are works of fiction as well.
Gemma was the Assistant Director on the world premiere and the revival productions of The Shadow Factory by Howard Brenton, directed by Sam Hodges at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres Jan-March 2018/2019.
Autumn 1940. The Battle of Britain rages.
Southampton is home to our only hope of victory: the Spitfire. But when the Luftwaffe drops 2,300 bombs inthree devastating raids, the city goes up in flames and the Woolston Supermarine Spitfire factory is destroyed.
Jackie is the third generation of Dimmock at her family-run laundry. Polly is the first and only draughtswoman in the Spitfire design office. How will each woman forge her own path in this evolving landscape? From the ashes, a story of chaos, courage and community spirit emerges.
One of Britain’s greatest living playwrights, Hampshire-born Howard Brenton (Anne Boleyn, Shakespeare’s Globe; Pravda, National Theatre) tells the remarkable and little known story of how Southampton stepped up when the chips were down.
The Guardian - Michael Billington
The Times - Dominic Maxwell
Daily Mail - Robert Gore-Langton
Pocketsize Theatre - Nick Wayne
"It really is a must see!"
Gemma led a Reserach and Development project and went on to direct The Narcissst.
Welcome friends, welcome Romans, welcome you bloody countrymen. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life.
A brutally fun, immersive and unnerving experience.
‘The Narcissist’ merges a ted talk, stand-up and drama to delve deep into the mind of someone with a poisonous addiction to feeling loved.
9th, 10th & 11th January 2018, The Hen and Chickens Theatre.
It’s back. The smash-hit, critically-acclaimed Thebes Land – winner of Best Production at the 2016 Off West End awards – returns to Arcola for 5 weeks only.
In this exhilarating multiple-reality drama, a playwright struggles to stage the incredible story of Martin Santos, a young man serving a life sentence for killing his father. As their interviews progress and opening night approaches, both of their worlds begin to unravel with shocking consequences. Will the truth be found, and can it be told?
Trevor White and Alex Austin reprise their celebrated performances in Daniel Goldman‘s funny, ingenious production, performed inside a giant steel cage. Gemma Aked-Priestley was the assistant director for the revival.
Part of CASA Latin American Theatre Festival
Supported by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts
A Prince by Dipo Baruwa-Etti, directed by Gemma Aked-Priestley for Little Pieces of Gold at Southwark Playhouse (Sunday 24th September 2017). Performed by Sabrina Richmond and Chiedza Rwodzi.
Children are easy to give. Tokumbo gave him children. Four children. But children are not enough. We all know that. He needs an heir. He needs a prince.
Rat King by Genevieve Hulme-Beaman, directed by Gemma Aked-Priestley, performed by Anna Shiels-McNamee and Matthew Blaney as part of the "Pint Sized goes Damsel" event at The Bunker Theatre, May 2017. Genevieve was mentored by Lolita Chakrabarti.
"There was a rat in the car park and he was big.
And he’d a tail on him like a Zig Zag,
A huge big rat he was and he loved climbing he did
He'd climb anything If he was Hungry"
Chrissy and David live in the car park. Chrissy did a bad thing. David is about to do a bad thing. And the rat keeps lurking...
Genevieve's previous writing credits include: Pondling (winner of Stewart Parker New Writing Award 2013, the Scotsman’s Fringe First Award at Edinburgh Fringe 2014)
Metal Rabbit, in association with The Bunker Theatre, present the London transfer of the Edinburgh Festival sell-out TONIGHT WITH DONNY STIXX by Philip Ridley at brand new venue The Bunker.
Donny has committed an act that shocked everyone. Tabloids called him The Most Hated Boy Alive. But Donny doesn't want forgiveness. All Donny wants is… his own television show.
Director David Mercatali (BLUE HEART), playwright Philip Ridley (MERCURY FUR) and performer Sean Michael Verey (RADIANT VERMIN) reunite for this award-winning tour-de-force about our obsession with celebrity and one young man’s quest to be remembered, no matter the cost. Gemma assisted David Mercatali on this piece.
★★★★ - The Observer
★★★★ - The Times
★★★★ - What’s On Stage
★★★★ - The Stage
★★★★ - Time Out
★★★★ - The Upcoming
★★★★ - Theatre Bubble
★★★★ - Live Theatre UK
★★★★ - The Gay UK
★★★★ - London City Nights
★★★★★ - British Theatre
★★★★★ - London Theatre1
Winner of Stage Award for Solo Performance
Nominated for Off West End Award for Best Male Performer
Originally produced by Supporting Wall at Pleasance Courtyard.
This production is generously supported by Arts Council England and Unity Theatre Trust.
Grimm: An Untold Tale by Jodie Garnish, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016, directed by Gemma Aked-Priestley, produced by Fiercely Spun.
Of the 214 Grimm’s tales, over half were sourced by women. This is their story.
"Delightfully playful" - ThreeWeeks - 5*
"Intriguing and Original" - A Younger Perspective - 4*
"Such an original show deserves more credit, an imaginative step forward in helping the “women of this world grow back their hands”." - Broadway Baby - 4*
"A feminist take on the origin of fairytales, this whimsical fable is a rare & powerful piece of storytelling" - Fringe Biscuit - 4*
Music and Lyrics by Jason Carr, book and lyrics by Ashley Robinson, directed by Matt Cowart, assistant directed by Gemma Aked-Priestley.
"Gilbert is a meth-dealing waffle house cook, struggling to escape the no-hope town he's been trapped in his whole life. Extraordinary circumstances grant his wish, but can he truly break free and heal the wounds of home?"
Lockhart is a brand new American musical in a Southern Gothic style, performed at The Bernie Grant Arts Centre with Mountview Academy third year Musical Theatre students, November 2016.
Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen.
Directed by Ben Kidd, Mountview Academy, March 2016. Performed with the second year Mountview BA Acting students.
Gemma assisted Ben Kidd on this production.
Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley, Karamel Club Theatre, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts' Mosaic Season, June 2016.
"Tender Napalm is a high-impact, high-concept two handed play which explores the landscape that is a relationship between a man and a woman. Explosive, poetic and brutal, the play re-examines and redefines a savagely romantic language of love."
Man - David Palmstrom
Woman - Rea White
Gemma is assiting Mehmet Ergen on the European premiere of Little Miss Sunshine at the Arcola Theatre, 21 March - 11 May 2019.
The road to happiness is a bumpy ride.
Based on the Oscar-winning film, Little Miss Sunshine is a new musical comedy from Tony Award-winners James Lapine (Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George) and William Finn (Falsettos, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee).
The Hoover family has more than a few troubles, but young Olive has her heart set on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. When an invitation to compete comes out of the blue, the Hoovers must pile in to their rickety yellow camper van. Can it survive the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California – and more importantly, can they?
This uplifting, modern classic celebrates the quirks of every family, the potholes in every road, and the power of overcoming our differences.
Lapine and Finn’s inventive musical version opens in London in a brand new production directed by Arcola Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen, then takes to the road for a national tour.
Gemma was the Assocaite Director on Stop & Search at the Arcola Theatre, 9 January - 9 February 2019.
When lines blur between conversation and interrogation. Three conversations grow increasingly uneasy.
A new play by award-winning writer Gabriel Gbadamosi, exploring a time of distrust and our deep ambivalence about the ways we police each other.
‘The play opens the question of why a tactic aimed at policing drugs, violence and terrorism (and that stops seven black people for every one white person) has grown into a flashpoint for wider, and deeper, flaws in a volatile and frightened social psyche.’ (Gbadamosi)
Gabriel Gbadamosi is an Irish-Nigerian poet and playwright. His theatre credits include Eshu’s Faust (Jesus College, Cambridge), Hotel Orpheu (Schaubühne, Berlin), Shango (DNA, Amsterdam); and for radio, The Long, Hot Summer of ’76 – winner of the first Richard Imison Award. Gbadamosi’s novel Vauxhall won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize and Best International Novel at the Sharjah Book Fair.
Artistic Director of Arcola Theatre Mehmet Ergen is an award-winning director. His recent theatre credits for the company include Richard III, Bliss, The Cherry Orchard, Drones, Baby, Drones, An Enemy of the People, The Cradle Will Rock and Clarion.