Sunday 16 June 2019

A scatological but not a theatrical week

  • Test Copy, Viking Theatre, Clontarf, Dublin
  • Lyrics, Theatre Upstairs, Lanigan’s, Eden Quay, Dublin
Roseanna Purcell in Test Copy
Roseanna Purcell in Test Copy
Tom Moran and Danielle Galligan in Lyrics

Emer O'Kelly

Worthy intentions are not enough in theatre, suggests our reviewer.

Test Copy is a commission. And while it is admirable to see public money being put into arts commissions, it needs to be art for art's sake, however elitist that may sound.

In this case it's Nenagh Arts Centre doing the commissioning - and while the obvious "community" aim is laudable, the result becomes quite literally a "test copy".

The piece is written and performed by Roseanna Purcell, and it ticks all the worthwhile boxes of trying to deal with the often dire effects of school bullying. But it tries too hard, and indeed Purcell tries too hard in her efforts to bring alive the various characters of smalltown school life. The final result is a worthwhile sociological exercise that doesn't have any creative tension.

Louise is in transition year; she has a mate, Elaine. She even has a boyfriend (sort of), Seanie. Well, they meet after school outside town for "shifting" sessions. And he sometimes even texts her. But the focus of her life is the raucous bad girl of the school, Phyllis McInerney, who sneers at everyone, particularly Louise.

But when Louise loses her rag in art class and tells the teacher to "go f**k yourself, you mother***ker" and follows up by calling her a "big-nosed bollocks" she quite understandably is suspended (but only for two days - if I'd ever been foolish enough to choose teaching as a career, I'd have expelled her). It's enough, though, to give her entry into Phyllis McInerney's gang. And they go drinking, instead of going to the No Name club.

(Although how that differs in anything other than adult delusion from other teenage activity is hard to figure out, as Louise and her original mates have always tanked up on booze stolen at home or purchased in the off-licence before darkening its doors. )

Cue an unpleasant sexual fumbling, Louise's fall from favour with Ms McInerney, and a spiral into the inevitable.

As mentioned before, Purcell does her best, but really doesn't succeed in painting reality: Louise's family is "nice" and "normal". (Mam's a nurse; they have a dishwasher, although it's Mam's large supply of tranquilisers that Louise steals) They're supposed to be full of concern, yet they do nothing to intervene. But then, the commission clearly required a disastrous outcome.

Test Copy is at the Viking in Clontarf, and is directed by Pat Kiernan.


Tom Moran and Danielle Galligan in Lyrics

From time to time, there's a play which makes you feel "this can't get any worse" - and then it does. Unfortunately, Lyrics is one such offering.

Written by Tom Moran, who also plays the male protagonist, it gives us a would-be songwriter who's dumped his girlfriend because she cheated on him; and a woman (Danielle Galligan) on her way to New York to meet the dying and rich father she's never known, in the hope of inheriting his fortune.

There follows an hour of barked-out staccato would-be "cool" overlapping monosyllabic interchange: "So?" "Yeah" "No" "What?" "Like" "Wow" "No way" with the occasional really long sentence along the lines of "Go f**k yourself" or "You're full of s**t". And we're expected to believe that all the ill-humoured aggression hides beautiful souls reaching out to each other. (Well, it ends with a kiss, you see.)

It's directed at such superficially racing speed by Romana Testasecca that any credibility it might have goes right into the wearisomely frequent s**t bin.

It's a Squad production at Theatre Upstairs in Lanigan's Bar on Eden Quay in Dublin.

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