Possible nominations for the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo Award

Yesterday I grumbled about how the Hugo nomination rules work against non-mainstream cinema and highlighted some films that would have been great nominees for the 2021 Hugos if 2019 festival screenings had not invalidated them. Now for some dramatic presentations that are actually eligible, starting with ones shorter than 90 minutes, which compete in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category.

Last and First Men – This is Jóhann Jóhannsson’s adaptation of Olaf Stapledon’s classic novel of future history, featuring Tilda Swinton as the voice of our descendants from the unimaginably far future. This austere work is not for everyone but I think the film would be a worthy Hugo award flag-bearer for cerebral science fiction. It is available to view on the kind of streaming services that offer up weirdo art house films.

I Am Not Legend – This is an edited version of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. The film-makers overdub new dialogue and replace the zombies with white blobs, apparently after printing off every frame from the original and manually altering them. I’m not sure the end result is that essential but it would make a great eligibility head scratcher for this year’s Hugo administration team if a load of people tried to nominate it. However, I am not sure how one could go about seeing this (I saw it as part of the online Bram Stoker Festival).

Eternal – All kinds of items can be nominated in the Hugo dramatic presentation categories, not just films and TV programmes. Eternal, from Darkfield Radio, is an audio drama, designed so that you listen to it while lying in bed alone in a darkened room. I heard it as part of the Bram Stoker Festival, so you may be correctly guessing that it features vampires. UK-based readers can pay money to stream it from the Darkfield Radio website.

A Spell At Home, With Hester – This was a piece of live-streamed theatre by the Hermetic Arts theatre company, in which Carrie Thompson played the eponymous Hester. It was set up as though we were taking part in a Zoom magick ritual during which flaky Hester reveals the dark side of the quaint village she lives in. It is a companion piece to Carbury Gifts, which I have not yet seen. Both of these were performed at Rural Gothic events organised by the Folklore Podcast and Room 207 Press. I’m not sure how you could go about seeing either of these and I may be the only Hugo nominator who has actually seen A Spell At Home, With Hester.

I will probably nominate at least three of the above, though I suspect that Last and First Men is the only one with a chance of making it onto the final ballot, and even that is a long shot.


Last and First Men (Observations on Film Art – Vancouver: First sightings)

It is happening now: live internet drama of the macabre

I have also found myself exploring the world of live-streamed dramatic events. Two of these were presented by the theatre group Hermetic Arts at online conferences on folk horror and the rural gothic organised by the people behind The Folklore Podcast and Room 207 Press. The first of these was Carbury Gifts, in which a woman (played by Carrie Thompson (one half of Hermetic Arts)) talks to Zoom camera from the flat in which she is locked down, mentioning that she is from a place called Carbury, which has a gift shop, where things are a bit… odd. Sadly connectivity issues meant that I got the start of this but not the end, which is sad as the beginning was great and I would love to see how it played out. LATE BREAKING ME AM BRANE UPDATE: I had forgotten that I can actually look back on Carbury Gifts on a secret URL link – must actually do this sometime. I will tell you whether it remained as good as its beginning promised but will not pass on the secret URL.
A later rural gothic event saw Hermetic Arts present A Spell at Home, with Hester. This again saw a woman (also played by Carrie Thompson) presenting to us over Zoom, this time the eponymous Hester, who is a new age Wiccan of the fluffy variety, supposedly leading us, her Wicca group, in a fluffy magic ritual. But while she is chatting to us she starts talking about her own life and how when she was a teenager her family moved back to where her mother was from, the small rural village of… Carbury. She tells a story of childhood scrapes that assumes an increasingly ominous tone before developing mysterious links to Carbury Gifts. This was all very spooky and delivered on the possibilities offered by streamed macabre theatre.
But in fairness I surely had already been assimilated into liking live spooky web theatre as I have been watching many performances by Robert Lloyd Parry. He is an actor fellow whose thing is performances or rehearsed readings of vintage horror short stories, most usually by M. R. James but on occasion by such writers as Saki, H. G. Wells, E. F. Benson, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Lucy Boston, among others. I’ve seen him do a good few now and I remain in awe of his ability to inhabit the characters of the stories he performs. His managements of the tonal shifts required by these stories, from situations of bumptious amusement to ones of macabre peril or uncanny dread are truly astonishing. Check out his schedule of upcoming events here; his Christmas Eve performance of M. R. James’s “Count Magnus” has the potential to be particularly terrifying. Some previous performances can be seen on YouTube and on Facebook. Readers might also be interested in a book he has edited for Swan River Press, entitled Ghosts of the Chit-Chat, which contains stories that were read at M. R. James’s ghost stories club as well as biographical notes on the club’s leading members.


A Spell at Home, with Hester (Lara-Rose (@OnTheArrow) on Twitter)

Robert Lloyd Parry (Nunkie Theatre: The M R  James Project)

Theatre: “Gym Swim Party”

I do not go to the theatre as much as I ought to, but recently I found myself attending a performance of this play in the O’Reilly Theatre, which was being staged as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. Gym Swim Party was co-written by Danielle Galligan and Gavin Kostick (my old friend and quaffing partner) and co-directed by Eddie Kay, Megan Kennedy & Louise Lowe. That is a lot of co-directors and I think it might be testament to the kind of show it was, as the production interspersed the more usual actor dialogue stuff with movement and dance elements. The initial premise of the piece was that two rival gym chains were locked in a battle for supremacy over Dublin’s fitness scene and had decided to settle things once and for all in a fit-off that saw their instructors compete in a variety of activities. This part was the least play-like and did feel a bit like you were watching an actual dance-off (partly thanks to the pumping music of a kind that I understand to be played in gyms (a class of establishment I do not frequent)) only with people doing step aerobics rather than dance as such. This bit was great, all high energy and basically fun-to-watch buff people do physical stuff.

I was thinking initially that maybe the whole show would be the contest, which could have been fun but maybe difficult to sustain (also sweaty for the actors), but one of the chains eventually crushed the other, absorbing their business and leaving its gym instructors to beg for new jobs with the victors. At this point audience members with a classical education were beginning to twig that there was some kind of Trojan War referencing going on, both in the names of the characters and the losing company being called Trojan Gyms. And in fact as the post-face-off part of the show unfolds it becomes apparent that this basically an adaptation of Agamemnon by Aeschylus. You will recall that this is the one about Agamemnon returning home from the Trojan War with new concubine Cassandra (spoils of war) only to be murdered in the bath by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover (thereby fulfilling a prophecy that he would die neither on land or at sea). In this one Aggie and Cass (still some kind of weird prophet) have fallen in love; he plans to divorce his wife Clem (played by Danielle Galligan) to be with her, but he meets his doom in the jacuzzi.

Now, you may ask, does the world need more retellings of Greek myths? My own view is that they are great stories and they are worth recycling. This production is to be saluted for setting it in the present day but not trying to make it Relevant – there is no suggestion that the Trojan War is a metaphor for Brexit or that Aggie is an analogue of Donald Trump or that the whole point of the thing is to Make Us Think about some contemporary issue. There are maybe some problems around the edges, like the way it goes for the resolutely kitchen sink setting but then retains the mythic idea of Cass as a seer thanks to an encounter with the Sun God. They also made no attempt to shoehorn the Trojan Horse into the story and I was struck by how Helen does not appear and is only alluded to obliquely when Clem mentions being the less attractive sister. Frankly though the energetic exuberance of the production had me thinking that it would be churlish to quibble.

image source:

Gym Swim Party (Dublin Fringe Festival)

Summer theatre in Dublin

Imagine you are coming to Dublin this summer, perhaps for a giant science fiction convention taking place from the 15th to the 19th of August, and you are also interested in going to the theatre. What theatres are there in Dublin and what are they showing around then that might tickle your fancy? Here for your delectation is just such a list of Dublin theatre venues and what they have on in the middle of August.

Founded by WB Yeats and Lady Gregory, the Abbey Theatre is Ireland’s national theatre and is located close to the Abbey Luas stop on Abbey Street. By tradition it is always mired in controversy of some sort. It has two things listed for August, The Hunger (not an adaptation of the film but a new opera about the famine of the 1840s), and on its second stage, Ask Too Much of Me, a play from the National Youth Theatre.

Also long-established, the Gate Theatre is where Orson Welles made his acting debut and is located on Parnell Square at the northern end of O’Connell Street. In August the revival of Roddy Doyle’s adaptation of his popular novel and film The Snapper will be nearing the end of its run.

The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is located across the Liffey from the the Convention Centre in Grand Canal Dock. It hosts big touring productions, which may be your thing even if they are not mine. In the middle of August the theatre will be staging The Bodyguard and Kinky Boots.

The Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar has two stages and puts on work that is generally of high quality but also a bit alternative. It also hosts art exhibitions. At time of writing they appear not to have programmed August yet.

The New Theatre is also in Temple Bar and can be found at the back of Connolly Books, Dublin’s premier communist bookshop. This is a small theatre that puts on more intimate productions. In the middle of August they are staging Skin Tight, an edgy sounding play from New Zealand, and An Evening with Great Irish Writers, a one-man exploration of the great writers of yore.

The Smock Alley Theatre can be found at the western edge of Temple Bar. In mid August they are staging The Roaring Banshees, a tale of Irish women gangsters in 1920s Chicago.

As the name suggests, Bewley’s Café Theatre can be found in Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street. It occasionally stages plays in the evenings but is best known for lunchtime theatre productions. In mid August the theatre is staging To Hell in a Handbag, which appears to be about two minor characters from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

The Gaiety Theatre dates back to Victorian times and can be found off Grafton Street on South King Street. In August they are staging Riverdance.

The Olympia Theatre on Dame Street also dates back to the Victorian era. In mid-August they are presenting an adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine and then Tinder – A Musical Comedy.


Poster from the Abbey’s opening run in 1904 (Wikipedia)

Publicity shot from 1914 Abbey production of The Playboy of the Western World (IrishCentral: Today marks the anniversary of riots over Synge’s Playboy of the Western World)