Revolution: sanctity or damnation?
Love in many of its forms features in two theatrical offerings
The alienation of the prison experience does not often impinge on the "outside world", other than an occasional thought that those who work in the service are as much prisoners of it as are the prisoners themselves.
But extending that off-hand thought brings us to a metaphysical question: are the changes in the psyche so profound that the prisoner can become feral and incapable of connecting with his own humanity, much less that of others?
In Danse, Morob the French writer Laurent Gaude has written a play that examines the question, especially for Olwen Fouere (who has translated it into English). It deals with the utter "separateness" of the prison experience, whether self-justifying as in those who consider themselves political prisoners and therefore unjustly deprived of liberty, as well as the broad experience of those usually regarded as "ordinary decent criminals"….as well, of course, the sociopathic.
And as Gaude sees it in his surreal examination of "magic realism", the experience can hardly avoid becoming a rush down a road that ends in sociopathy.
A woman wants the truth about her father. She believed him dead and heroic, a victim of the "dirty protest" of the 1970s in the Maze Prison, with all its particular horrors and the subsequent long memories. Her father's old cell-mate tells her you never get rid of the stench, ever.
But there's worse: some old embittered prison guards go to dig up his corpse, after the hero's funeral granted by his old comrades, and attended by his grieving widow. Their aim is to dishonour the body, but they discover that the coffin is empty. And his widow has always known it: the hero's Republican funeral for her husband was her demand and pay-off for her own devotion to the cause even though she knows he is alive.
The cause and its price sent her husband to lead a scavenger's life in the woods, where he is finally found by his daughter, maybe in reality, perhaps in fantasy; and she finds a kind of peace. But there is always a price. For the daughter, it is the effort, in Gaude's symbolist world, of carrying her father on her shoulders to a kind of salvation they can both share, as they wade into the waters of a river, and she emerges alone. Cleansed and vindicated? Maybe.
Danse, Morob, is a complex, uncomfortable piece, whether you see armed rebellion as subversion of the democratic state, or as heroic self-sacrifice, and whether you limit its tenets to our own specific history or to all violent uprising. And Fouere plays it with a kind of intense despair that asks neither for affirmation nor judgement. She is beautifully supported by Judith Roddy and Mani Obeya, and she also co-directs with Emma Martin. The AV design (eerily reminiscent of the Holocaust cattle trucks) is by Jose Miguel Jiminez and Lucia Truffarelli, lit by Sinead Wallace with spine-chilling sound in a similar vein by Denis Clohessy. It's a co-production at Project in Dublin between Fouere's company The Emergency Room and Project itself.
Ken Rogan's play Hero could equally well have been called Testosterone. It's a love story from the male point of view, and unusual in its tenderness in this macho world. Equally, it's a portrait of the destruction that has become part of so many lives by our refusal to accept limits to what we believe is our right. And where the male peacock is concerned, we see the tragic results on the streets of our towns and cities every weekend.
Smitty is unemployed; but he can pull very easily thanks to being the captain of the local footie team. Proud of being a tough guy, he's equally proud that he doesn't ever have to prove it: the reputation is enough. Until he meets Marissa.
But Marissa is involved with someone else, although she's perfectly prepared to flirt to dangerous levels… but only when she's drunk. Except for once. And the once was perfect, though she and Smitty were both drunk.
The play is judgemental: p****-teasing can only end in tragedy, Rogan posits, even if the heart is engaged underneath. It's also neatly and cleverly presented, with plenty of insights which are demonstrated from poignantly to exuberantly in Daithi Mac Suibhne's performance.
He's directed by Amilia Stewart in a terrific backdrop set of back-lit wineglasses by Naomi Faughnan. The lighting is by Eoin Byrne, and the sound is designed by the director.
It's a Lakedaemon co-production at Theatre Upstairs at Lanigan's Bar on Eden Quay in Dublin.
Sunday Indo Living