Monday 18 November 2019

Nothing But a Toerag at Bewley's Café Theatre: Sophisticated investigation into the psychological effects of trauma

Bewley's Café Theatre, Dublin Until Nov 23

Nothing But a Toerag at Bewley's Cafe Theatre
Nothing But a Toerag at Bewley's Cafe Theatre

Katy Hayes

Aisling O'Mara's new play kicks off like a comedy. Two young women share a room in an institution. It could be a prison cell or a psychiatric ward. A lively battle of wits ensues as they each try to assert dominance. Everything is very funny, for a while, and there is a lively dance routine.

But under Amilia Keating's commanding direction, the play subtly starts to morph into something much more complicated and becomes an investigation into the psychological effects of trauma. By the end, the audience's expectations are completely upended, and we are never fully sure if we have witnessed two characters, or simply a single fractured consciousness.

Sound design by the director, set and costume design by Ellen Kirk, and lighting by John Gunning and Shane Gill, all make a significant contribution to the unsettling erosion of normalcy. Performed touchingly by O'Mara herself with Clare Monnelly as her provocateur cellmate, the two actors draw you into their unsettling world.

The show is a darker brew than the usual Bewley's lunchtime fare, but all the richer for that. O'Mara shows herself to be a sophisticated emerging playwright, able to express several psychological realities at once, whilst keeping the story expertly spinning along.

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