Tuesday 25 October 2016

Theatre: Pregnancy and polemic at the Fringe

Emer O'Kelly sees a selection of new works, from the near-sublime to the tritely ridiculous at the second week of the Tiger Fringe Festival

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Clodagh Mooney Duggan and Finbarr Doyle in the extraordinarily well-made 'Tryst'
Clodagh Mooney Duggan and Finbarr Doyle in the extraordinarily well-made 'Tryst'
Susan Barrett and Lisa Terrell disappoint in 'Risk'

There are two trysts dealt with in Tryst: the Sunday morning one where Rachel turns up at Steph and Matt's flat a week before their wedding, and the tryst they all had two months ago, a three-in-a-bed romp because they were drunk and a bit bored. Now Rachel is pregnant and Matt is the father. What's more, he already knows she is, and has given her the price of a termination, except that she came back from the airport at the last minute, and used the money to pay her back rent. Now she wants it sorted ... another kind of three-way split before she goes up the aisle as Steph's bridesmaid.

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Jeda de Bri and Finbarr Doyle have written a truly terrific representation of an aspect of contemporary life, with sure-fire dialogue and wonderfully layered levels of rage, fear and disintegrating trust. It's a complex, unresolved treatment of a very modern insoluble problem; a serious, extraordinarily well-made play that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping.

It's a Sickle Moon production as part of the Fringe Festival at The Lir, splendidly directed by de Bri, with Doyle as Matt, Clodagh Mooney Duggan as Rachel and Katie McCann as Steph.

Katie Foley's set design, Nicola Burke's costumes and Dara Hoban's lighting are as effective as the writing and playing. Tryst is well deserving of a life beyond the Fringe.

Traitor is a political polemic aimed, one imagines, at getting us to wake up to what "they" are doing to our country ... and preferably joining the revolution, any revolution, apparently. The problem is that the play would put you off making even a polite protest, much less joining a revolution.

Set in 2016 and a mythical 2026 when the revolutionaries have (reluctantly, of course) sold out and are living on European-provided funding, it totally fails to make one feel that selling out has been an undesirable option.

Add in the faradiddle of the supposed plot: one of the revolutionaries goes nuts for no obvious reason and tattoos himself with scientific formulae as well as "inventing" a machine for cloning himself through his mental processes. In 2026 another character is a statue coming alive. He's a statue because he's iconic for having set himself alight in 2016 because he was besotted with the female rabble-rouser-turned-smarty-pants politician.

Add in clunking, awkward dialogue and an airy disregard for basic research: at one stage two long lines of mounted gardai are supposed to have taken on the rioters (this year). The garda mounted unit consists of 18 members. It took me 90 seconds to find that out.

This looks like a very sloppy first draft of a play which would probably never have been dramatically convincing or tenable, whatever the redrafting.

It's a That Lot production written and (not well) directed by Shane Mac an Bhaird at Project. The cast has Jamie Hallahan and Kevin C Olohan doing their best as the nutcase and the icon respectively, and Gillian McCarthy actually impressive as the bereaved mother. Aonghus Og McAnally, a fine actor, should have stayed away from this production: even he can't do anything with the role of the chief seller-out. And Roseanna Purcell, in a jacket and trousers at least two sizes too small for her, is an unconvincing termagant. She seems unable to do anything other than toss her head and wave her arms about.

Tracy Martin's Coast makes for one of the most profoundly depressing evenings I have ever encountered in the theatre. And the author means it to be. Set somewhere on the coast, on a beach, two men and two women find themselves washed up in a flood of emotional flotsam.

They are all casualties in their separate ways of what age, life, and illness can do to the human spirit, and they are losing the battle for survival.

Donncha O'Dea is Gerry, a reclusive alcoholic who refuses all human interaction, his dog his only point of contact.

Camille Lucy Ross is Carol, the desperate carer for her mother, far advanced in Alzheimer's disease. She is forced into an awareness that words cut no sympathetic ice.

There's nobody there; relatives, friends, and colleagues only make demands and offer nothing.

Gordon Quigley is Karl who longs for intimacy, but lives isolated in his sister's spare room, unwanted and despised because he contributes nothing, caught as he is between homelessness and a suspended dole payment. His desperate answer is the rape of a stranger on the beach.

Aoibheann McCann is Anne Marie, drowning in overwhelming depression and hallucinating as she desperately transports her two small children between points of "social aid" only to be turned away as a non-emergency. Unable to articulate her anguish, she too goes under.

Directed by the author from the unrelenting perspective of the have-nots in our society, this is excruciating, even gruesome theatre which succeeds admirably in what it sets out to do: point a disgusted finger at everyone who chooses to turn a blind eye.

It's a Red Bear production at Project.

Dianne Crotty is clearly a fan of fast-paced, blood-spattered violent crime TV series. And she's come up with her own version. Except that the genre needs visuals and action and Crotty's play Risk has neither. It consists of two actors alternately reciting events to the audience. And the attempt to give the events an Irish twist simply doesn't come off either, with credibility stretched way beyond breaking point.

It's London in 1966, and Frances and Agnes are the daughters of a dying Irish crime boss, who has no compunction about dealing with the opposition by ensuring that bodies (lots of them) start turning up in the river and in warehouses. Then he dies and daughter Frances, a true chip off the aul' block, takes over the empire, which, to cut a meandering story to the chase, leads to lots more bodies turning up, a punishment shooting of her own husband (for flirting with another woman) and the murder of silly sister Agnes's husband when he's caught collaborating (given Lisa Tyrell's tendency as Frances to gabble and swallow her words, it's not clear whether he's turned queen's evidence, or talked to the opposition.)

Susan Barrett is Agnes, and it's directed by the author at the New Theatre, with good costumes by Sarah McColgan.

Sunday Independent

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