Fishamble's series of 12 'Tiny Plays 24/7', available online until tomorrow evening, aren't, to tell the truth, as impressive as the Abbey's 'Dear Ireland' series of 50 plays screened earlier during lockdown. But then the national theatre has a budget and facilities way beyond anything the extraordinarily valiant (and superbly talented) group at Fishamble can mount.
Jim Culleton's company received 471 tiny plays in answer to their call, many of them from new writers; some, even among the 12 filmed, not bearing much resemblance to plays, are better described as apparently autobiographical cries from the hearts of the writers involved. But still…
They also prove that a point can be made through comedy even in these times - perhaps even best made through comedy.
Ciara Elizabeth Smyth's Wild Horses is hilarious, a Zoom conference of a management disciplinary session, where Denise Gough is demanding pay restoration following a 10 per cent pay cut (it was written and filmed long before the past week's political events. Honestly.) But her bosses (Clare Barrett and Rory Nolan) are trying to cope with the fact that an earlier conference, she appeared naked and… em… pleasuring herself. Part of her daily schedule, she shrugs.
At the other end of the scale, in a way, is Patrick O'Laoghaire's Change, a piece drone-filmed over Achill Island, with the voices of Olwen Fouere as the land, Pat Kinevane as the sea and Mary Murray as a soaring bird. Sobering, disturbing, and very beautiful.
Also sobering in a different way is Caitriona Daly's Martyrs, with Marty Rea and Eleanor Methven as a son and mother meeting unexpectedly in a supermarket during the depths of cocooning. He's been doing her shopping, so why? Well, her well-filled bags are clinking rather loudly, and some facts of lifestyle are things a mother prefers to keep from her son.
Eric O'Brien's Wonder of You is a family affair: a tale of a family funeral, the burial of a much-loved 'character' uncle. And played by a family: Catherine Byrne as Ma, John Olohan as Da and Jack Olohan as an embarrassed son. Charming, simple and heart-warming.
And with medical services, including mental health ones, currently either disappearing or going online, Grace Lobo's Bear Hunt taps realistically and wonderfully theatrically into a therapy session where a stressed woman (Eileen Walsh) struggles with the help of her therapist (Desiree Burch) to understand what she sees as her unwarranted self-pity. But her soul struggles even more with the imagery of the local project of teddy bears exhibited in windows as an entertainment for local children. Designed for the children it may be, but there are disturbing connotations of death and imprisonment for someone with heightened awareness.
Putting the project together must have been an immense task, but well worthwhile and at its best, enlightening. All the 12 plays are directed by Jim Culleton, and filmed (and edited) by Jeda de Bri and Cal de Bri at the O'Reilly Theatre in Dublin (without an audience, obviously). Sound is by Carl Kennedy, lighting by John Gunning, costuming by Maree Kearns.
Perhaps limited in scope, but a triumph nonetheless.