Saturday 19 October 2019

The many pitfalls of the blindingly obvious


Bewley’s Cafe Theatre Dublin

Dermot Magennis and Aenne Barr in 'Heather'
Dermot Magennis and Aenne Barr in 'Heather'

Emer O'Kelly

A programme note from the author Thomas Eccleshare reads: "Heather is a play written for two actors, A and B. The two actors don't play the part as such, but rather deliver the parts to the audience. The fact of what the two actors look like is sort of immaterial…"

And reading that, my heart sank with what must have been an audible clunk.

Things might have got better; only unfortunately they didn't. The premise of nothing being as it seems in a play is as old as the hills.

In this case, it's an excited publisher writing to a first-time author about a manuscript for children which is set to rival JK Rowling's success.

The author is called Heather Eames; the publisher is Harry. And Heather claims to be wild with excitement, but heavily pregnant so unable to travel from the north to London. Three novels and worldwide success later, with a video game, character dolls, a film deal, etc, she is still being mysterious, and Harry is getting restive.

No apology need be made for a spoiler: from the first moment it's clear (even to a not-too-bright 12-year-old, should one be subjected to the play) that of course Heather is not Heather at all. First, she's obviously a man, and probably unsavoury. (She's a child murderer called Tariq.)

The big surprise is that gullible publisher Harry is in fact a woman who just happens to go by the name of Harry, with daughters of her own. Tariq had thought she was a man: gosh!!! And when she finally meets Tariq in his prison cell, her main reaction is horror that she's actually read the trilogy to her kids.

And then there's a load of drivel, supposedly the scenario of the blockbuster movie in which the protagonist of the books (a little girl) confronts the monster carrying the poison pen, and there's a lot of psychobabble about confronting your inner self (the monster and she are one and the same).

Two sides to a character, you see, just like Tariq. Oh lord! It's called Heather, it's a co-production with Pageant Wagon at Bewley's Cafe Theatre in Dublin. Dermot Magennis and Aenne Barr are the protagonists.

Liam Halligan makes huge directorial efforts, but the material defeats him. Best thing about it is Kieran McBride's fairy-fantasy set.

Sunday Independent

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