Tuesday 28 March 2017

Twists, turns and plot holes along the road

THEATRE EMER O'KELLY

ACTOR Anthony Brophy has dipped his toe into playwriting for Guna Nua, the company with whom he has frequently performed. The result is Chicane a comedy thriller that has more twists and turns than the average Irish secondary road.

That's the good bit. The doubtful bit is that he seems a bit carried away with his own enthusiasm, and there are a lot of holes in the plot larger than those left by last winter's hard frosts.

Little things like a (presumably High Court) judge sitting at the age of 79: according to the dialogue, it's four years since his 75th birthday. And huge things like an off-stage character with a reputation to protect who carefully preserves in his desk drawer all the documentary evidence of his central participation in a nasty criminal conspiracy, where it can be ready to hand for any curious passer-by. And there are others.

And then there's the smoothness of the action: the major twist, indeed the development of the whole thing, requires that two of the characters need to have been certain that the third would agree to obey their orders. (I'm not a spoil-sport: go and find out.) And the obeying of those orders would stretch audience credulity to its limits; yet he carries them out almost without a blink.

These and other eye-popping inconsistencies give the impression that Brophy and the company were in too much of a hurry to get the piece on stage; it needs several more drafts before it hangs together smoothly, and the re-drafting could also incorporate making the dialogue a little less verbose: a recidivist petty criminal who has spent most of his adult life in prison is unlikely to have the flying command of English the author gives to his psychotic dead-beat Ray.

All of that said, Chicane spins along with breathtakingly imaginative verve, the characters coming nicely alive from their formulaic and stereotypical initial presentations: smooth-talking smug solicitor; verbally flat-footed handyman with an apparently pure gold heart; and hard, foul-mouthed Celtic Tiger bitch mistress.

Paul Meade directs with his now trademark sensitivity to contemporary attitudes and mores. Two of his cast serve him pretty well perfectly, with Barry Barnes excellently low key as the solicitor Robert, and Emmet Kirwan deliciously off the wall as the threatening handyman Ray. But Jane McGrath, who to date seems not to have put a foot wrong in her career, seems horribly uneasy in the role of Julia. She needs to allow her text to portray her character, and play with far more restraint. She also seems uncomfortable in her body, striking awkward poses throughout: perhaps it's the obvious discomfort of her Louboutin-esque sandals and circulation-stopping skinny jeans. (Costumes are by Tanya Persechini.)

Lighting is by Mark Galione, and the set (well-adapted for touring) is by Owen MacCarthaigh.

Chicane is at Draiocht in Blanchardstown, Dublin, and will tour until October 9, visiting Everyman in Cork; Civic in Tallaght, Dublin; Belltable in Limerick; and the Mill in Dundrum, Dublin.

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