Wednesday 21 August 2019

Theatre: Old-fashioned Flames can warm the heart

DREARY: Sex, Drugs and Ravioli at Theatre Upstairs
DREARY: Sex, Drugs and Ravioli at Theatre Upstairs

Emer O'Kelly

Shane Burke's Old Flames is billed as a black comedy. Actually, there's very little blackness around. It is much more a rather competent old-fashioned situation comedy centred on female nasty manipulation to the detriment of the hapless male. Sexist? Yes. Rings true? Yes.

As in most such pieces, some of the situations are a bit contrived. But it doesn't take away from the overall amusement; and much of the effectiveness can be laid to the joint credit of Burke's easy way with dialogue, and the talents of a very accomplished cast.
 Sexually unsuccessful, psychologically controlling Sorcha tries to live vicariously through younger sister Aisling's love life. But when Aisling decides to take off for Canada with her current boyfriend, the somewhat dubiously unstable Lance, Sorcha sees control slipping away and decides to do something about it, using every male in sight as the weapon of choice.

Cue the decorators let loose in the house, in the persons of Eddie, Aisling's former boyfriend and his phlegmatically arsonist young side-kick. (Well, why wouldn't you burn down your school if you don't like school?)

The weakness in the play lies in the fact that several of the main protagonists, including the drug-dealing Lance and his side-kick, a somewhat socially and every other way inadequate saddo who can't handle his own girlfriend, never appear on stage. Their back stories, necessary for the plot-line, are fairly complicated and it makes for some comprehensibility gaps in the piece. But overall this is a very entertaining, unchallenging piece of comedy, with a bit of black descending in the final moments.
 Aoife Molony and Ashleigh Dorrell play Sorcha and Aisling, with Cormac McDonagh and Cal Kenealy as the inept painting duo.
Andrew Deering does a good job of direction in a set by Fionn McShane lit by Nell Conneally.

Old Flames is a Run Amok production at the New Theatre in Dublin.

***

Stony, Chloe, and Rick are telling the story of a weekend at a music festival. They do it in consecutive monologue forms. It's a dreary, four-lettered account of the pursuit of unfulfilling sex, preferably with strangers. Sometimes they manage to find the sex; there are lots of soft drugs, some cocaine, and detailed accounts of urination and defecation as a conversational topic and pick-up strategy, all against a background of mud and tinned ravioli. They don't enjoy a minute of it; and obviously you're supposed to feel sorry for them.

But you don't, because they're horrible, superficial, unpleasant, self-obsessed people who deserve to be miserable, even to come to a bad end. That would be the case if they rang true: but you don't believe in them or their situation for even a moment.

Andy Gallagher's play Sex, Drugs and Tinned Ravioli is a Saucy Merchant Production at Theatre Upstairs at Lanigan's on Eden Quay in Dublin. It plays rather like having a lonely 16-year-old reading aloud his/her attempts at a fantasy porn diary: boring as hell, and certain to bore even the diary's author if he/she finds and re-reads it at the vantage point of two years hence.

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