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Feminism gets epic treatment in Marina Carr’s stylish new show at Dublin Theatre Festival

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Olwen Fouéré impresses in iGirl at Dublin Theatre Festival

Olwen Fouéré impresses in iGirl at Dublin Theatre Festival

A potent Kate Stanley Brennan in ‘Conversations After Sex’ at Dublin Theatre Festival

A potent Kate Stanley Brennan in ‘Conversations After Sex’ at Dublin Theatre Festival

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Olwen Fouéré impresses in iGirl at Dublin Theatre Festival

iGirl

Abbey Theatre

Conversations After Sex

Project Arts Centre

 

Stylishly, mysteriously, and with a soaring imagination, Marina Carr has upended the definition of feminism.

iGirl, her new verse play for the Abbey, directed by the company’s new artistic director Caitríona McLaughlin, stars Olwen Fouéré, who grasps Carr’s verse in her emotionally capacious hands, to take us through the history of womankind, beginning with a lament for the loss of the Neanderthals.

The wrong species survived, she tells us, with Homo sapiens and their “vampire incisors” coming to the fore, tearing their way through history, always part of the savagery.

She continues weaving through time: Antigone, burying her war-slain brother against the custom of her people and the dictat of her father Oedipus, blinded by his own hand; Jeanne d’Arc, who yearned through the bloodshed of war for the wings of the archangel seen in vision in her childhood, only to die howling as her breast exploded and sizzled in the flames; Queen Jocasta, depicted by Carr as complicit in the horror that has stalked the ages, who knew the returning Oedipus, tortured and abandoned in babyhood by his father, was her son, and yet she took him as husband, and cursed her race.

And through all the speculative torrents of metaphysical questioning and apparent evolutionary confusion, there is a meditation from today: the woman who sings a ‘Confiteor’: an admission that the years of estrangement from her dead father may have been unjustified on her part. And now the bereaved woman, at his deathbed, remembers “the best of all the good things”.

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As a Shaman told her, “Most of her patients/Eventually/[…] Landed on their fathers […]Children loved their fathers/So much /That the fathers seemed to be/ The be all/ And end all/Of how we measure/ Ourselves /On this Earth.”

Fouéré moves sinuously throughout the piece against Joanna Parker’s black and white set and video design; a Boudica- dressed-by-Chanel in Catherine Fay’s bare-breasted costume. But in the final, harrowing section, she is seated soberly at an isolated desk, acknowledging from whence womankind comes. And it is devastating.
 

Can we isolate sex from emotional experience? Mark O’Halloran’s new play Conversations After Sex explores this very possibility... or its impossibility.

We meet a woman who is alternately bruised and numb by being abandoned by her lover. Except he abandoned her by killing himself, leaving her to find his body.

O’Halloran invites us to follow her through a year of apparently random sexual encounters. Her reason for what in times past was often called promiscuity is: “I like f**king”.

And she f**ks in her own place, in grotty bedsits, in hotels, in strange men’s apartments, anywhere and everywhere there is a bed; after encounters in bars, after-match parties – anywhere there are crowds, availability and alcohol. Usually, she doesn’t know the men’s names. Usually, her own emphasis is on the fleeting nature of the encounter.

Initially, there is a hint that she might have wanted more: she suggests hesitantly that having done the job, one of her encounters might like to stay and talk. But he has things to do.

Grief is her unacknowledged trigger, and it remains unacknowledged until a moment of shy vulnerability from a 21-year-old shatters the desperate carapace within which she has been living.

The year progresses and the men become the ones to show their vulnerability: they even talk about their wives and girlfriends, their parents. She comments, drily, wryly, disinterestedly.

Sometimes they meet again, but never by arrangement. The backstories don’t matter to her, any more than the men themselves matter except for the fleeting pleasure they give her. She is detached enough not to care when they fail to give her an orgasm, or when they fail even to “get it up”.

And in her own background is a family: an unhappy sister whose marriage is breaking up, at a time when the woman herself has sacrificed her own interests to care for a dying father.

And always – of course – always there is pain, because, O’Halloran suggests, sex is at the core of our humanity, try to dehumanise it though we may. And we can learn from it.

Tom Creed extracts every subtle nuance in his direction in a suggestively bleak design by Sarah Bacon.

Conversations After Sex is an unsettling, beautiful play, quiveringly well played by Kate Stanley Brennan as the woman, and a versatile Fionn Ó’Loingsigh playing the sad parade of men, with an impressive Niamh McCann as the sister.


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