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THIS STUFFY PERIOD DRAMA WOULD PROBABLY MAKE FOR A BETTER DOCUMENTARY...

Artistic licence. We imagine there's a great deal of it running through A Pair of New Eyes. Granted, much of what we see before us in this stagnant period drama set in the 1800s and written and directed by Aintzane L Mentxaka actually happened.

Mary Ward was, in fact, a renowned scientist and illustrator - her cousin by marriage, Mary Parsons, Countess of Rosse, was one of the earliest practitioners of photography and an accomplished blacksmith to boot.

They were both astronomers too, and the latter was to be of huge importance throughout the Great Famine, providing work for several hundred men in and around her home at Birr Castle, Co Offaly. But what of the relationship between these remarkable women? Were they more than just friends? Our programme tells us that they "broke all the rules . . . except one". Well, there you go.

If there's one thing that A Pair of New Eyes tries to get across, it's that Ward and Lady Rosse shared a bond like no other. We know that the latter was responsible for the first fireworks display in Ireland, but did she really go to all that effort because it was Ward's birthday? Enough with the questions. We'll leave the historians to their fun and get on with the drama side of things which, I'm sorry to say, is far from up-to-scratch.

LECTURES

Here we have a family who actually built their own telescope at a time when Ireland was running out of food. Unfortunately, Aintzane's painful script is so uniformly bland that the end result is like watching paint dry. Or waiting for one of Lady Rosse's photographs to develop.

There's no atmosphere - no drive or passion. It's just one unfocused scene after another, its various lectures (make no mistake, these are lectures, not conversations) serving little purpose other than to educate the audience on Ward and Lady Rosse's achievements. That's fine, but you have to entertain us too.

Poorly directed and stuffy to the core, the impenetrable dialogue does the cast no favours, which is a pity as both Roisin Barron and Margarita Grillis are very good in the lead roles. The multimedia visuals need to go, and might I suggest adding a score to help break up those drawn-out scene changes? Simple stuff, really.

But here's the biggest question - do these historical characters actually deserve their own play? Is there a good enough story to tell? It's unclear. Maybe someone should just make a documentary instead.

Running until Saturday hhiii


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