Too solemn treatment of controversial script challenges audience
IF you can manage to believe that a 23-year-old man with a third-level qualification in filmmaking who has been researching the influences of child pornography can be so mind-blowingly thick as to ask his schoolgirl sister to tell her friends that he is a child molester -- just to see what happens -- then you may be able to get into the skin of Perve, Stacey Gregg's new play for the Abbey which premiered at the Peacock.
The director Roisin McBrinn obviously can, as should be expected -- a director must believe in the work.
But McBrinn's solemnity of approach leaves you hardly able to breathe. You imagine her telling the cast every five minutes "Remember this is an IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUE. It's serious."
And she also directs the piece in the mode of a documentary, which is very different from directing a play that has documentary elements. One must be static, the other must avoid stasis at all costs.
And what McBrinn does not seem to have done is taken the trouble to sit in the back row at any time during rehearsals. Apart from Ciaran O'Brien, Peter Campion and Jane Brennan, the cast members are almost inaudible.
The overall result is solid lead.
Gethin (O'Brien) wants to break new ground with a film about social attitudes to child molesters and child pornography. Cue the above-mentioned action, which not unnaturally leads to a great deal of nastiness, including intervention by the social services, a shocked mother, a traumatised little sister, a shattered best friend, and a few other casualties along the way.
There are also a couple of related sub-plots of extraneous complication, which fail to come off due to the awkward construction of the play.
Further, Alyson Cummins' obviously expensive set remains largely unused by the director, with the action (such as it is) taking place in a small bowl-shaped space downstage.
Despite this, there are fine performances from O'Brien as Gethin, Campion as his luckless friend Nick, and Brennan as the authority figure, while Roxanna Nic Liam has presence as young Sarah.
The rest are lacklustre, possibly due to a failure to engage with the basic premise and its lack of depth.