Monday 1 May 2017

Theatre: A gifted actor in search of a careful editor

A tough dramaturg would have helped Nessa Matthews' first play

One-woman show: Nessa Matthews is the author and sole actor in 'Way Beyond the Blue', which charts the day of a young woman in a small 1960s US town
One-woman show: Nessa Matthews is the author and sole actor in 'Way Beyond the Blue', which charts the day of a young woman in a small 1960s US town
Nessa Matthews in 'Way Beyond the Blue'

Emer O'Kelly

Nessa Matthews is an actor of considerable talent: she has presence and she has emotional truth; she is also a writer of considerable talent: she conveys an atmosphere, she has a sense of time and place, and her writing has fluency.

But in this play, of which she is author and sole actor, she has allowed all of her talent to run away with her. The one hour and 20 minutes of Way Beyond the Blue feels more like four hours and 20 minutes as she tracks a summer day in small town America in the early Sixties.

A young woman appreciates the summer sky; she runs into an old school friend, and has a discussion with him about his older brother, a local ladykiller who has returned to town. The young woman also seems to have mental problems (unspecified) and is the recipient of jeering from an older woman of unspecified occupation.

She also carries a camera everywhere with her, and photographs people and places obsessively.

The young woman's mother hovers somewhere in the background as an absent presence, and as the young woman tracks her way through the day, ending up at a welcome home party for the ladykiller, she plays out (inconsequentially as far as the audience is concerned) her mother's life and unspecified fate in a very confused fashion.

It seems she's probably dead, was certainly a harlot and a lush, probably a hooker, and possibly a drug addict.

You get a feeling that as an author, Matthews has been hit over the head while watching an old and cracked copy of Peyton Place unearthed from a film archive.

But cut by half Way Beyond the Blue is a good play in the making.

Matthews is directed by Sarah Finlay in this Fast Intent production at Theatre Upstairs at Lanigan's Bar, Eden Quay, Dublin.

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