Wednesday 16 October 2019

This week's lesson is: give yourself a break

Free EU Roaming

Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Sure Look It, F**k It

Project Arts Centre, Dublin

'Free EU Roaming' at Bewley's with Sinead Brady, Caroline Galvis and Katie O'Byrne
'Free EU Roaming' at Bewley's with Sinead Brady, Caroline Galvis and Katie O'Byrne
Clare Dunne at the Project in 'Sure Look It, F**k It'

Emer O'Kelly

Talk it, rap it - four terrific women do it, and they do it well, writes Emer O'Kelly.

Katie O'Byrne, Sinead Brady and Caroline Galvis have collectively called on their separate heritages to give life to the old joke "An English woman, an Irish woman and a German woman walk into a bar…" Except in their case, it isn't a bar, it's a dingy room in a student/holiday hostel in Barcelona at the height of the violent street demonstrations for and against Catalan independence from Spain.

Nationhood and international co-operation as a defence against war isn't exactly the topic that's on their minds. They're just pissed off because they're going to be late arrivals at a music festival, if they make it at all.

Irish is in full festival warpaint: an extra layer of tan, flowers in her hair, bare midriff. She plans to surprise her boyfriend as a fifth anniversary present (he's already at the festival with a gang of the lads.)

British is more decorously attired, and she's worried that her mother and sister back home in Coventry will worry about her when they see reports of the Barcelona riots. Coventry, co-incidentally, was the city which suffered most from German bombing during World War II.

German has no worries about getting in touch with home; she's just irritated that everywhere she goes, she finds the word "German" has connotations for the people she meets, the burden of history weighing on her shoulders. She's the only one who doesn't live with her family: German people are reared early into adult attitudes and learn to stand on their own two feet.

Phone signals dying, the young women take to sniping at each other about their attitudes and their national characteristics, with side-swipes at the EU, which is coincidentally at the forefront of British's mind, Brexit being a hot topic.

The play Free EU Roaming is a serious, intelligent debate about nationality and responsibility. So is it pretentious and terribly boring? Like hell it is; it's terrific.

Coincidentally, O'Byrne (Irish) is Irish; Brady (British) is English, and Galvis (German) is from Offenbach in Germany. They are also the authors of the play, and are clearly prepared to stick their necks out with the device of setting it against a riot situation where the cause is "national self-determination".

They leave the debate unresolved, except that an unmentioned aspect stays drumming in your head: the EEC (now the EU) was set up in the aftermath of World War II with just six member countries. The aim was to ensure that such a catastrophe as that war should never again happen in Europe, by sublimating national self-determination to the common good. The long-term ideal was a federal Europe. And look at us now.

It's directed at Bewley's Cafe Theatre by Rosa Bowden and lit by Shane Gill.

*******

Although she doesn't say it at any stage, Missie seems to be summing up her life to date with a deep regret that Facebook was ever invented.

Freshly back from six years in Brooklyn, she's sitting in her old room in her mum and dad's house in the Dublin suburbs, wondering what happened to those six years, and grappling with how to avoid their harsh reality.

2019-03-24_ent_48940393_I2.JPG
Clare Dunne at the Project in 'Sure Look It, F**k It'

She went intending to "make it". What she did was spend the years cleaning lavatories in pubs. Not good on the CV, or on Facebook. As she goes for her first job interview back home, she's gloomily aware of this.

And in passing, as the apparently confident interviewer goes through the questions, Missie's ADHD kicks in, and she finds herself wondering who the hell wears fake eyelashes that long on a Tuesday morning?

But national DNA also kicks in, and it's not long before Missie, having met up with old mates, is going fairly wild in Coppers, and reflecting that at least they won't be barred, because Liz has clicked with an off-duty garda.

A slightly surreal night follows, with Missie, out of her tree and wondering about the meaning of life, actually makes eye and vocal contact with her dancing partner. Will and she have known each other since they were nine, and shared their first kiss. Guess what? He's now a serious ride. In and out of reality, Missy and Will even climb a crane in the dawn's early light. (They survive.)

The surprise about Clare Dunne's Sure Look it, F**k It is its old-fashioned, almost sensibly happy ending. Delivered in rapid fire rap, interspersed with crackingly performed musical numbers (with Ailbhe Dunne on guitar) the storyline brings Missie back home to her parents' kitchen, tired, hungover, happy, and realising that existential angst (otherwise known in Missie's terminology as "finding the stable bit of grid so we don't flip the lid") can be dealt with by putting one foot in front of the other along the road of reality.

Watching Dunne performing her own hugely perceptive material in its wrapping of frenetic profanity brings its own conclusion: she is one heck of a talent.

Directed by the equally talented Tom Creed, with lighting by Sarah Jane Shiels and sound by Ivan Birthistle, Sure Look It, F**k It is a THISISPOPBABY production.

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