Monday 22 April 2019

The Tide review: Murder plot offers escape route for trapped characters

The Tide

The New Theatre, Dublin Until March 2

Seaside drama: Ann Russell and Killian Filan in The Tide
Seaside drama: Ann Russell and Killian Filan in The Tide

Katy Hayes

The two main characters in Tara Maria Lovett's new play offer an interesting demographical mix, not often seen on the Irish stage. She is a woman in her fifties, he a lad of 19.

They befriend each other on a beach where they both go for some 'me time', away from their difficult lives. Ivy is stuck in a 35-year marriage to Hubert, the grumpiest man in Ireland. Young JC is a reluctant carer to his stroke-victim stepmother, a woman whose cruelties included stomping on his pet goldfish when he was seven. JC comes up with a plan to eradicate their two pests.

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They will each kill the other's problem. Ivy will run over the bothersome, wheelchair-bound stepmother in her Nissan Micra. JC will batter Hubert with a hurley stick in a botched robbery. They will then both be free and happy. Neither will be a suspect as neither have a motive for the killing of the other's burden. JC declares that horrible Hubert and nasty Rose are in fact killing Ivy and JC, albeit at a more leisurely pace.

The plot has a touch of Hitchcock about it, reminiscent of the film Strangers on a Train.

To carry off this level of badness, the characters would need Martin McDonagh levels of savagery, but Ivy in particular is fundamentally a gentle soul. And though JC has the unpredictable impetuousness of youth, he's not fully at the level of complete psychopath. However, the story has plenty of intrigue.

Set design by Mary Sheehan includes a large screen backdrop. Two long sandboxes hold a variety of props and provide a neat solution to representing the seaside in a snug playing area. Video work by John Gunning adds to the general air of elegance and ambition.

Pat Nolan directs with a non-naturalistic shape, with actors Killian Filan and Ann Russell rapidly slipping into cameos to play smaller parts. Sometimes the two actors speak in unison, and the play acquires a more expressionist form. Nolan creates moments of clever stagecraft, including a honeymoon-night scene played out behind a sheet, and a rehearsal for murder done with toys. The main characters are performed realistically by both actors, with credible and moving effect. Occasional thoughtful monologues display a fine, poetic quality in Lovett's writing.

While the undertow of black comedy never fully emerges from beneath the primary psychological thrust, this is an enjoyable show with elegant writing, offering the old-fashioned satisfaction of moral outcomes for people of conscience.


Starlet review: The Irish Midlands with a touch of Beckett 

Starlet Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin concluded

Smock Alley is now in the fourth year of its Scene + Heard festival, presenting works in progress from more than 105 companies. Each show is at a different stage of development; all are being test-driven in front of an audience to identify weaknesses and opportunities for tweaking.

Alison Spittle's debut one-act play, Starlet, featured as part of the line-up. It is a crazy caper set in a Toyota. A couple journey from a house to the cinema. Then from the cinema to the pub. Then from the pub to the lake for some, eh, romantic action. They are like the kind of people who feature in Bruce Springsteen songs, only wonkier and more Irish Midlands. There is a touch of Beckett; the characters are physically confined and the mordant wit points at a terrible personal and societal emptiness among all the gags.

Performers Roxanna Nic Liam and Peter McGann do the script proud. It is hilarious. Very black, with a wicked satirical spin on over-the-top road safety adverts, rural Tidy Towns committees and local radio station death notices. It all gets fairly X-rated towards the end, with some outrageous prop use; it will suit an evening audience with a taste for comedic anarchy. Good luck to the Starlet and all who travel in her.

Scene + Heard continues until March 2

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