Tuesday 25 October 2016

Review: Star of the Sea - Resourceful cast bring Famine era back to life

Star of the Sea, Draiocht, Blanchardstown

Maggie Armstrong

Published 01/10/2015 | 07:00

Star of the Sea presented by Moonfish Theatre Company at Draiocht, Blanchardstown
Star of the Sea presented by Moonfish Theatre Company at Draiocht, Blanchardstown

Moonfish Theatre take a great deal on board in this imaginative staging of Joseph O'Connor's 'Star of the Sea'.

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Freely adapted from this epic Famine-era novel, their stage is a vessel bound for New York in 1847. But most of the action has happened back in Connemara - and we are pulled with it into the past. What unfolds is a story of star-crossed desire, pregnancy, betrayal, exploitation, disaster, disease, murder, suicide, migration and lots more on the high seas.

Characters multiply, scene changes are unrelenting, a Victorian mystery plot is woven in with a tale of historical trauma. The Galway theatre company does this through Irish and English with few subtitles - surely to challenge our Anglicised ways.

This resourceful cast of six rotates roles to make music on the wings - piano, fiddle, folk songs, or Morgan Cooke's skilful bird sounds - while co-director Mairead Ni Chroinin is onstage throughout, producing visuals on a laptop.

It makes for a busy spectacle that needs your undivided attention. The pace can be rushed, and dramatic moments are hurried to a climax that feels uneventful. The ensemble take on an exaggerated acting style that makes it obvious who the baddie is - Pius the ploughboy (gender-bending Zita Monaghan) - and the goodie - Maire, the sorrowful maidservant (Ionia Ní Chróinín).

But this emotional tour de force honours the author and, most of all, the victims of The Famine and the coffin ships.

Star of the Sea

Draiocht, Blanchardstown

Review: Maggie Armstrong

Irish Independent

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