Intercession: Brighton Court, New Theatre, Dublin: Gothic twist in psychological drama on Dublin street life
Until Saturday night
Halo Productions present Owen Jerome Ryan's play about Dublin street life, a psychological drama with a supernatural twist. We meet Diarmuid, an embittered doorman at a large Dublin theatre. He is managing an unruly crowd who are attending a magic conjuring show at a new city-centre venue, The Colosseum.
Then we meet a junkie called Graymer, a father-of-three who has given up on life, "wanting to get high and not have the bother of kids anymore". Thirdly there is Lydia, a deeply unhappy office worker who is poisoning her body and mind with alcohol. Doorman Diarmuid's aggressive ways have him demoted from the high-profile stage door to the side door, located down an alley. This shadowy environment, nicely created by set-designer TJ Lynn, attracts drug addicts and other member of the legions of the sad. The three characters' stories intertwine in violent circumstances down this lane.
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Like Dylan Coburn Gray's recent Citysong at the Abbey Theatre, the play is a love-letter to the geographic facts of Dublin, with the city's nightlife given vibrant reflection. The show starts as a series of monologues, each of the three main characters delivering insights into their state of mind. There are two bursts of misogyny in the early sections; one feels appropriate for people-hating Diarmuid, but the other feels all wrong for the softer Graymer. This sets an odd tone for the evening. Each of the characters' negative states of mind is born from a bad experience in childhood or youth, and with the help of an intercession from a supernatural being halfway through the show, they are offered the opportunity to time-travel and confront a pivotal moment in their lives. They each return to their place of trauma with the chance to heal themselves, or not, as the case may be. The arrival of this other-world angel character gives the plot an unpredictable edge, but the use of overworn Freudian parameters makes the psychology very predictable indeed.
The four performers are persuasive and each has their well-steered moments of anguish and intensity, with Ethan Dillon a standout as the likeable, drug-addled Graymer. Ryan himself directs the emotion well, but struggles with some of the challenging physicality of the show.
There is talent and sensitivity in the writing; in particular, Ryan's description of juvenile male bullying is potent and affecting. But the surprises in this play are all on the surface, and unlike a good magic show, a good play cannot be assembled from a series of conjuring tricks.