Friday 20 September 2019

How to murder conveniently: just swap

The Tide

NewTheatre Dublin

Ann Russell and Killian Filan in 'The Tide', directed by Pat Nolan at the New Theatre in Dublin
Ann Russell and Killian Filan in 'The Tide', directed by Pat Nolan at the New Theatre in Dublin

Emer O'Kelly sees an uneasy cross between thriller and psycho-drama

Ivy was 19 when she married a dentist she met at Lough Derg. On their honeymoon night he screamed his head off when she touched him, and they have lived unconsummated and celibate for 30 years.

JC, as he likes to be called, was 12 when his widower father married Rose. Rose introduced herself by taking his goldfish from its bowl and stamping it to death. Now he's 19, his father is dead and he's the full-time carer for the wheelchair-bound Rose.

Ivy and JC both like watching the sea - particularly when a body is washed up - and the pair form an unlikely friendship.

Just how unlikely is explored by Tara Maria Lovett in The Tide, a slightly unevenly surreal piece at the New Theatre in Dublin in-house, and co-produced with Whirligig.

It purports to explore the longing for freedom (at any price), and how the longing can take over minds already tending to the schizophrenic, as a plot is hatched for each to murder the other's unpleasant burden.

And although they live in the same small town, they assume it will be the perfect murder and they will go on to do "anything they please." (Hitchcock did something similar, I think, in 1951.)

Lovett writes the piece as a comedy rather than a crime thriller, so some unlikely oddities are permissible, and there is some sharp observation along the way. But there is also a lot of unlikely attitude and dialogue, with the 19-year-old JC referencing Enid Blyton and even Margaret Thatcher - the former unlikely, and the latter a probably unheard-of figure from history in his lexicon.

Nor is the credibility of the piece aided by the introduction of a TV game-show obsessed Garda sergeant who is in sole charge of the investigation. I know gardai recruitment is a problem, but it's hardly likely that the boys in blue couldn't manage someone with a few more stripes for a double murder.

But there's an interestingly downbeat ending which poses more psychological questions than it answers on the topic of unresolved guilt and retribution.

So overall it's an interesting piece of writing, although it's unfortunately pulled down by some less than adequate acting. Killian Filan does not present as a 12-year-old, while Ann Russell seems to exude suburban contentment rather than repressed rage and desolation as the lonely virgin-wife.

Some of this, presumably, is due to less than inspired direction by Pat Nolan, as well as extremely unsure lighting by Catherine O'Carroll. But there's an impressive AV projection of a swimming sequence by John Gunning.

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A new era for opera?

It's not so many years since the outlook for opera in Ireland looked extremely bleak, with even the internationally acclaimed Wexford Festival Opera struggling to survive in the face of what at times seemed to be thinly veiled official hostility.

But finally, despite the ever present problems of budget for this most expensive of all art forms, a corner would seem to have been turned, and opera lovers can find quality productions of world-class work almost throughout the year.

This week alone, the indefatigable Vivian Coates of Lyric Opera is bringing La Boheme to the National Concert Hall, featuring Marlena Devoe as Mimi and Aaron Cawley as Rodolfo.

If ever there was an impresario who refused to be defeated, it was and is Coates - who has funded small scale opera for a quarter of a century, mostly from his own pocket when funding was denied him.

Irish National Opera, on the other hand, seems to have crashed through all barriers in its first year of existence, with its superb production of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice still touring the country, having premiered at the Galway Arts Festival. And INO has just announced a production of Vivaldi's Griselda for next October, while the ever-popular Madama Butterfly (with Celine Byrne) will gladden the hearts of the traditionalists in a production in both Dublin and Cork at the end of March.

And Artistic Director Fergus Shiel will hardly have time to draw breath before May when a new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute will go on tour nationwide.

But money troubles are still never far away in the world of opera: Wexford Festival Opera's artistic director David Agler, who sadly bows out of Ireland after this year's festival, has recently announced a programme change. Instead of Weber's Der Freischutz, Wexford will stage a co-production with La Fenice in Venice of Vivaldi's Dorilla in Tempe.

Agler has cited the smaller scale of the latter production as well as the divisions of costs as having been made imperative by funding reductions, but since it's also a return to the core values of lesser-known operas in Wexford's repertoire, it may well prove to be a popular one.

But Agler has not abandoned the determined hallmark of his extremely distinguished tenure in Wexford, with the staging of a new Irish opera: Andrew Synnott's La Cucina, in a double bill with Rossini's Adina. The third work for Wexford will be Massenet's Don Quichotte.

Add in Opera Collective, formed in 2015. It has staged only four productions since then, but all have been impressive, with last year's eye-opener directed by Patrick Mason, of Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses at Kilkenny Arts Festival, in itself an object lesson that disproved the long-time nay-sayers that opera couldn't achieve quality without massive budgets.

What it needs is talent and imagination. And of course, audiences, which seem to be gathering in ever-increasing numbers, in defiance of the detractors who so staunchly held for so long that "opera is not part of what we are".

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