Wednesday 29 January 2020

A slouch-like stab at summing up alienated youth – but not worth the effort

I've to Mind HER

John McKeown

Smock AllEy Black box

Paul will be 17 in three weeks. He lives with his 51-year-old single mother, and fears she may be developing a serious mental disorder that will make her dependent on him, blighting his life for the foreseeable future.

I don't know why he's so worried. With his deadpan face, limp body and apathy-sodden voice, nobody's going to notice that he's stuck at home bathing his mother for the next 20 years.

And it's not just him. Dublin Youth Theatre does the zombie walk, though without the open sores and leaking brains, to tell the story – such as the few bare details are – of the run-up, or slouch-up, to Paul's birthday and the showdown with his mother. The cast deserve full marks for sustaining the straight faces and hollow voices necessary to convince us that this 50-minute shared narrative told from different angles and employing such radical technology as a video-camera feed is really an ironic take on a serious social issue.

But it's wasted effort. Director Gary Keegan's story-telling tricks, all of which we've seen many times before, and which really are threadbare theatrical old hat, are there simply to disguise the fact that Sean Dunne's text is nothing but that – text.

It's a poor, lazy strain of minimalism, a vague, half-hearted stab in the direction of Martin Crimp's influential disconnected open text 'Attempts On Her Life'.

Still, it has its entertaining moments – one which it's difficult to decide if it's unintentionally comic or refinedly ironic. Ironically enough, it involves ironing.

While Paul intones the wonders of an adventure centre he wants to attend, the rest of the cast accompany him musically with a ukulele, electric guitar, keyboard – and the hiss of a steam-iron. It's charmingly done, whatever its provenance.

The other is when the cast are illustrating Paul's dread of feeding his disabled mother, and food is splatted at 'Mother's' face. It's a heartless bit of fooling that briefly warms the frigid atmosphere and its colourless, unappealing character.

Perhaps the piece is really an image of an alienated youth in an isolating, alienating society? No, it's just a waste of Dublin Youth Theatre energy.

Irish Independent

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