Saturday 14 December 2019

Theatre Review - Gloom amid all the black bin-bags

From left, Alan Mahon, Lloyd Cooney and Louise Lewis in ‘The Waste Ground Party’, by Shaun Dunne, a new play presented by the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage
From left, Alan Mahon, Lloyd Cooney and Louise Lewis in ‘The Waste Ground Party’, by Shaun Dunne, a new play presented by the Abbey Theatre on the Peacock stage

Emer O'Kelly

Shaun Dunne's work is at what is already a considerable best when he is not ticking boxes, especially politically correct boxes.

His play Death of the Tradesmen at the Theatre Festival in 2012 was a joy to watch for its quiet passion, insight, and creativity. But his Advocacy, again produced for Talking Shop, and at this year's Tiger Fringe Festival, was lifelessly worthy in its exploration of the social challenges faced by people with disabilities. It played as though written to a supplied template. (In between there was another piece of social commentary for Dublin Youth Theatre.)

But with The Waste Ground Party, Dunne, at only 24 years of age, is back on form in this Abbey commission playing at the Peacock.

The play has an unfinished rawness which creates its own appeal, as though the author is waiting for life to tell him what his finished portrait will ultimately look like. So it has the power to keep you reflecting on what the future holds for his characters long after you leave the theatre, something which ticked boxes can never do.

A piece of waste ground in a deprived Dublin suburb is being re-generated as a community playground. But it is being regularly desecrated by the dumping of huge quantities of unlabelled bin-bags which are left to fester.

Dunne sets his characters to dance around this unlovely image, Bernie as worried about the social deterioration of the district as she is about her son Gary, unable to cope with his college life and about to drop out; her younger friend Denise overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood with poverty snapping at her heels; and Martin, Gary's supposedly tearaway friend, unemployed, close to hopelessness, but always longing to get things right, his own feckless mother Tina a victim of similar hopelessness.

Dunne puts them together in a scenario where, to put it bluntly, only the rats feeding on the contents of the bin bags are the winners, while an even deeper tragedy is being lived out in lonely silence because the neighbourhood believes in minding its own business. It's a gloomy, not to say jaundiced scenario, made the more compassionately depressing by its credibility.

Gerard Stembridge directs a cast led by Ger Ryan, Alan Mahon and Lloyd Cooney as Bernie, Gary and Martin, with Louise Lewis and Jasmine Russell as Denise and Tina, and Bryan O'Connell as a corporation worker.

Good design and lighting are by Niamh Lunny and Eamon Fox.

Jazz: Charles Lloyd, packing a mean sax at the NCH

The American saxophonist Charles Lloyd appears at the National Concert Hall on Tuesday 18 November, leading a quartet with Gerald Clayton (piano), Eric Harland (drums) and Joe Sanders (double bass).

Lloyd began his musical career as a teenager, playing alto sax in R & B bands. Later he switched to tenor sax, doubling on flute, and worked with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley. In 1966 he formed a quartet with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette. They created a sensation at the Newport and Monterey festivals, and their LP Forest Flower, Live in Monterey was one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies. More festivals and tours followed, including a trip to the USSR.

In the 1970s Lloyd took time off and did not play in public for several years. Encouraged by the French pianist Michel Petrucciani, he came out of retirement in 1982. They played together at the Montreux festival and toured widely for two years. After that, Lloyd withdrew from the scene once again, but resumed his career at the end of the decade. Since then he has remained active, recording for ECM and playing with international greats like John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Billy Hart. In March 2005 he performed in Dublin's Vicar Street.

Feelings are mixed about Charles Lloyd's current output, which can be a bit lacklustre, but his backing musicians are worth hearing in their own right. Drum students especially should not miss Eric Harland.

Olivia Trummer (piano, vocals) plays the first part of the concert with Dave Redmond (double bass) and Kevin Brady (drums). Born in Stuttgart, she now divides her time between New York and Berlin. Before the NCH concert she will launch her new CD in JJ Smyth's next Sunday afternoon.

The Jacob Deaton Trio ends its tour in the Mermaid, Bray, this afternoon from 5 pm. Next Saturday night Honor Heffernan and Hugh Buckley play in Bewley's Cafe Theatre.

Grainne Farren

Sunday Independent

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