Reviewed – 13th February 2020
“All three actors are at their best as Liam, lively and energetic and sad”
In rural Ireland, three friends meet to commemorate something that happened 17 years ago – the death of their mate Liam. But none of them are 17 anymore, and the night is a mix of memory and present day revelations. It’s supposed to be a big one – 17 years later, and 17 when he died, but the rest of the lads are in town for the birthday of someone none of them know, and only Pa, Barry and Cusack show up to mark the anniversary. Still, they line up the cans, Pa passes out the drugs and they get the darts out.
The whole play (set and costume design by Naomi Faughnan) is set in the shack they used to go to, the gang of them, when they were teenagers. There’s a single flashing strip light (lighting design Zia Bergin-Holly), empty beer cans, faded deck chairs, candles, a table the wrong way up, a bed and mattress separated on either side of the room. It’s a claustrophobic space, and outside all we can hear is rain pouring down (sound design Peter Power).
Occasionally the pace is too slow, and the piece as a whole does feel longer than it needs to be. But the actors help to carry it through. Rhys Dunlop plays Pa, perhaps the character most in pain, still reeling, apparently living more in the past than in any kind of future. He delivers a particularly moving performance as the story unfolds. Barry is played by Colin Campbell, again another very convincing performance, whilst Conor Madden plays Cusack, the new father of the group, who has some lovely moments although begins acting drunk too early which makes the mid-point of his performance feel repetitive.
Each actor takes a turn to morph into Liam and deliver a monologue in three pieces which tells the story of what really happened the night he died. All three actors are at their best as Liam, lively and energetic and sad.
Flights, written by John O’Donovan and directed here by Thomas Martin is a poignant play about grief and about male friendships. It’s about the way that people change as they get older, set in an Ireland none of them are quite ready to leave.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Ste Murray
Omnibus Theatre until 29th February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
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: