Monday 24 July 2017

Theatre Review: The Same is powerful, unsettling, meticulously staged site-specific theatre

Theatre Review: The Same, Old Cork Prison

The Same, Old Cork Prison
The Same, Old Cork Prison

Josef O'Shea

A wild and wintry night in a recently decommissioned prison. With their final instalment of a trio of site-specific productions of Enda Walsh texts, a story of fractured lives and institutional living, Corcadorca have found the perfect setting.

For the premiere of The Same, a two-hander with actor-sisters Catherine and Eileen Walsh, the Old Cork Prison on its bare hill high up above the city provides a foreboding backdrop.

The audience enters through a small steel portal cut into the high gates of the main entrance and then processes through a series of dark common-rooms and utility spaces, each featuring an unsettling installation. One space, a long, dark communal shower has percussive water, discarded towels and life-size, back-lit photo-portraits of the two women in two cubicles by the far wall.

When we finally reach what was the old prison’s large, over-lit rec-room, with its battered chairs, tatty board-games and muddy colour-scheme, we find a perch and witness the broken, jumbled journey of a young woman through mental illness.

The Walsh sisters play multiple characters. The dialogue is fractured and elliptical, winding back on itself as the two women move through the space. An outside yard, a glass and tile box set into one side of the rec-room, has a bus-stop standing in unceasing, driving rain.

It is unsettling, compelling theatre with two masterful performances and thoughtful, innovative directing and staging. Fluorescent strips buzz and flicker, a battered bingo machine cranks into life and starts spitting out balls while an old TV fixed to the wall occasionally booms into life with clips of over-amped daytime TV shows.

* The Same – Old Cork Prison, Rathmore Road, Cork. Feb 13th-25th – tickets triskelartscentre.ie/events.

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