| 12.6°C Dublin

Theatre: Sparkling Woolf adaptation fuses intellectual and dramatic tension

To the Lighthouse; Everyman Theatre, Cork Midsummer
Run concluded

Close

Director Annabelle Comyn

Director Annabelle Comyn

Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Andrew Bennett and Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Andrew Bennett and Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

/

Director Annabelle Comyn

Virginia Woolf’s modernism finds astute expression in this spectacular production by Hatch Theatre Company and The Everyman.

The story is set in the Ramsay summer house before and after World War I. A proposed boat trip to the lighthouse is in jeopardy because of a bad weather forecast by Mr Ramsay (Declan Conlon), dashing the hopes of young son James (Kyle Hixon).

Mr Ramsay is a “genius”; Mrs Ramsay (Derbhle Crotty) services his ego with a mixture of good grace and alert cynicism. She services her own ego by being a charming hostess. Ramsay is a philosophy professor, and with eight children, the couple are constantly under financial pressure. “To feed eight children on philosophy!” marvels William Bankes (Nick Dunning), one of several house guests. Others include poet Augustus Carmichael (Olwen Fouéré), painter Lily Briscoe (Aoife Duffin) and young PhD student Charles Tansley (Colin Campbell). Tansley declares to Briscoe: “Women can’t write, women can’t paint”. A core journey of the play is Lily fighting off the taint of this slur on her confidence.

Marina Carr’s adaptation locates the novel’s gold in its explicit subtext and mines this. The characters speak dialogue but also express their thoughts verbally. These are often contradictory, always complex and very funny. Tansley’s class rage is thus given voice, as is Briscoe’s struggle with her painter’s vision. The novel’s autobiographical content is rendered explicit in a short scene where Crotty and Conlon transform into Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

Director Annabelle Comyn tackles the myriad challenges posed, both by the text and the online presentation, with innovative zeal. A dinner party played “live” on stage is interspersed with a filmed version where the characters are in different costumes. José Miguel Jiménez, director of photography, injects another layer of dynamism.

The cast are uniformly terrific. The project is a homage to modernism and the concurrent birth-pangs of the modern woman. The adaptation transforms the narrative experiments of modernism, the capturing of consciousness, into theatrical form. The result is an exciting fusion of intellectual and dramatic tension — a work of sparkling originality and innovation.

TV/theatre hybrid is in a world of its own

Mespil in the Dark; www.panpantheatre.com
On demand until Aug 29

Close

Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Anna Sheils-McNamee in Mespil in the Dark. Photo by Ros Kavanagh


During the pandemic, theatre companies have generally responded by filming plays, either live or in a couple of takes, and streaming the result. Good or bad, the artefact is unmistakably a play.

This Pan Pan project takes a different approach: producing a TV/theatre hybrid, leaning more towards television but infused with a theatrical sensibility and side-stepping the tyrannies of TV drama, the most conventional of all art forms.

The series unfolds over four parts, each about a quarter of an hour, and follows the intersecting lives of artist characters living in the Mespil Estate in Dublin.

Video of the Day

Written by Eugene O’Brien, whose writing career has bounced between theatre and TV, and created by the regular Pan Pan team of director Gavin Quinn and designer Aedín Cosgrave, this is an otherworldly and experimental piece. Episode 2 is a poignant portrayal of two actors, Anna Sheils-McNamee and Tadhg Murphy, juggling gigs, toddler care and money niggles. Episode 3 features Ned Dennehy as an architect, a failure full of bitter grandiosity. It has a witty, satirical edge and is a particular highlight.

Ros Kavanagh directs photography and edits, capturing a stylish urban world. This might be one of the more intriguing effects of the pandemic on theatre, nudging the Pan Pan talent towards the small screen. Boundaries are breaking down. Watch this space.


Most Watched





Privacy