Saturday 10 December 2016

Theatre: Boom? pokes fun at recent past, yet is still relevant now

It's a comedy that's light and fun, but which packs a razor-sharp edge

Emer O'Kelly

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

Actors Claudia Carroll, Isobel Mahon, Aisling O’Neill and Rose Henderson.
Actors Claudia Carroll, Isobel Mahon, Aisling O’Neill and Rose Henderson.

Isobel Mahon's Boom? is set 10 years ago, at the height of (you've guessed it) the mythical economic boom. Yet it could as readily be contemporary, and that's in its favour. She is setting out to satirise the pretentious vulgarity of suburbia, specifically areas of south County Dublin in 2006, but both her characters and the situation are as much of today as a decade ago.

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Forty-something Selma Mae's husband has walked out on her, plunging her into a nervous breakdown, an abortive attempt to slash her wrists, and a successful attempt at wrecking her brand new kitchen. Now she's out of hospital and having a drinks party to "celebrate" her return to normality.

But with a mother like Carmel, obsessed with appearances, that's not going to be easy. And then there's Chloe from down the road, mistress of all things trendy, and the possessor (in her own mind) of the solutions to everyone's problems. Add in Selma Mae's older sister Maeve, ahead of her in the separation stakes, cynical and with a tongue like a razor, and you have a lethal mix even before you add in Bernie - the obsessive compulsive neurotic who Selma has met in hospital, but who is definitely not the class of person Carmel wants her daughter to be associating with.

This Likes of Us production at the Dolmen Theatre in Cabinteely in Dublin is as light as a feather, thanks to Mahon's sure ear for dialogue. But she also has a good touch with reality checks, and there's a real sense of empathy with the trials of modern life, even when cushioned by designer takeaways for parties, golf club membership and the latest mod-con gadgetry.

Director Caroline FitzGerald has assembled a first-class cast and handles them with a deft touch. The author herself plays Selma, with Maria McDermottroe as Carmel, Claudia Carroll as Chloe, Aisling O'Neill as Maeve, and Rose Henderson as Bernie.

All are terrific, but O'Neill does slightly edge the lead as the unapologetically vicious Maeve.

Design is by Conor Neville with lighting by Ben Downey.

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