Reviewed – 14th June 2019
“The devilishly witty and highly complex poetic rhythms entice you in”
Winner of the 2017 Verity Bargate Award for new-writers, author Dylan Coburn Gray brings his love letter to Dublin on to the London stage.
Citysong began its life as a commission for a spoken word festival. It tells the story of three generations of a Dublin family on one day and passes through time as the characters reflect and reminisce. The play starts off with a taxi driver telling us of his fares and their reason for journeying around the City, he speaks of his family and we see Dublin through his eyes, until the story effortlessly moves to another inhabitant. We have lovely scenes with keenly focussed observations on first love, meeting the parents, teenage awkwardness and a delightful moment in a delivery ward to name but a few. It reflects everyday people, “Everyone belongs in a city and yet everyone is only passing through”.
Set designer (Sarah Bacon) has given us a stripped-back, bare set apart from a few nondescript chairs and tables and a stunning abstract, fractured glass backdrop in the shape of Dublin and its coastline. When a piece of this crashed to the stage ten minutes before curtain up, I was left on tenterhooks every time an actor came through the door within this structure. Thankfully all was well and I hope there are no issues moving forward as the reflections and light coming from this backdrop are utterly unique. Sound (Adrienne Quartly) has an almost constant single note, similar, although lower in tone to when you run your finger around the top of a glass, occasionally it breaks into a tune before correcting itself. This and a constant high screen of dry ice and moody lighting (Paul Keogan) add to the atmosphere.
Director (Caitríona McLaughlin) has lovingly passed this script to a six-strong ensemble. She has created some delightful shapes on a fairly limited space and allowed the actors to express themselves. A cast of just six (Amy Conroy, Daryl McCormack, Jade Jordan, Blaithín MacGabhann, Clare McKenna and Dan Monaghan) playing sixty characters is a heck of a challenge. But without exception, each of them proves themself to be highly versatile, a pair of glasses here, a baseball cap there and you are with them immediately. Everyone has their time to shine and they are all a joy to watch, only on a couple of rare occasions did a small characterisation fall slightly flat.
The play is described as a “Modern day Dublin’s Under Milk Wood”. I hope it shakes off this tag, as it is more than able to stand on its own two feet. The staging is fascinating, the acting is delightful, but the real star is the script itself. The devilishly witty and highly complex poetic rhythms entice you in, wrap you in a warm, comfortable blanket and at the end, gently put you to one side with a satisfied smile on your face. This really is an absolute delight.
Reviewed by Chris White
Photography by Ros Kavanagh
Soho Theatre until 6th July
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: