Talking Movies

March 18, 2022

The Father of My Daughter

No Drama Theatre returned to the intimate Boys School space in Smock Alley Theatre for a distinctly multi-media appearance in the Scene and Heard Festival.

Eileen (Helen McGrath) is burdened by griefs public and private. The public knows that her husband (Greg Freegrove) shockingly killed himself on the night of their daughter’s birthday. They don’t know that the reason Eileen came home to find his body in the bathroom that night was because she had left her daughter and husband to continue her affair with her work colleague (Andrei Callanan). Consumed with a guilt that she cannot explain without inviting judgement, she is further tormented by her husband’s unusual choice of suicide note – a message on a tape recorder. This vivid reminder of his living presence keeps her looping around and around their time together, from their first accidental meeting in a crowded cafe where he politely asked if he could share her table, to her unlocking the bathroom door on their fateful last night.

It’s thrilling to see the difficult playing space used so well by writer/director Ciaran Treanor and producer Andrei Callanan. Multimedia projection of video footage of the once happy couple made it seem as if we were glimpsing inside Eileen’s head and reliving her memories as she reacts to them, while the use of recorded sound cues for moments of physical theatre made them truly pop, in particular Eileen’s desperate hammering on the bathroom door. Greg Freegrove’s sinister reappearance as a spectre with a distinctly voodoo air was made even more startling when the lights went out revealing his clothes to be daubed in glow in the dark patterns. Indeed there was a hint of the Babadook about him, as what is left of him in his wife’s mind has become dark and twisted, eager to urge her to suicide.

Helen McGrath ably carries the play as a woman looping around and around in a depressive spiral, wondering if a good, quiet man killed himself because of what she did, even though his suicide note didn’t blame her. Can she ever know for sure? A fantasy dance sequence appropriately scored by the Bynon Remix of Sofi Tukker’s ‘Good Time Girl’ sees Eileen and her two lovers break out of their looping flashbacks and guilt-trips into something new and strange. As Elevator Repair Service and tgSTAN showed in theatre festivals past even the simplest choreography erupting out of nowhere and being sustained creates a moment of pure theatre. Treanor and his frequent collaborator Noel Cahill have used rap and sustained rhyming before, largely for laughs, but here things become more incantatory; at times, given the subject matter, veering towards verse drama.

The Father of My Daughter is like a theatrical concentrate, it only runs for a spare twenty minutes, but it packs the emotional punch of a longer play.

4/5

March 23, 2018

Alex and

Gorgeous Theatre follow last summer’s largely wordless debut production June with a talkative show that is easier to describe yet a far more ambitious enterprise.

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There are routines that by dint of ecstatic repetition ascend to ritual, like the Shah in John McGahern’s final novel transforming each day into the same day. Then there are routines that go directly into a rut. Alex (Helen McGrath) is stuck in a rut. She enjoys going to shows with Friend (Ciaran Treanor), is in love with Partner (Andrea Bolger), and has a long-suffering closeness to Parent (Amy Kellett). But the repetitive nature of her life is beginning to bring her down. Every bloody day it’s breakfast, work, home, something, something, sleep alone – rinse and repeat. As Alex starts to buckle under routine she increasingly resents the emotional demands of others and alienates them. But as the people in her life strike their names out from the blackboard of her world can she pull herself back from the brink?

The Teachers Club is a small playing space, but writer/director Noel Cahill used it with some panache; by the end the stage was as littered with detritus as at the close of many an Enda Walsh play. Walsh was in the air as Alex’s implosion due to the mundanity of life was reminiscent of a character’s suicidal wishes in The Last Hotel because people were making (ordinary) demands of her. There was also the physical business of making breakfast more efficient by just pouring cereal into Alex’s open mouth and then adding milk, and the thoroughly unexpected trio of musical numbers (courtesy of Enda Cahill) extolling the most important meal of the day; the first a solid show-tune, the second a hysterical gangsta rap performed with gusto and admirable deadpan as to its absurdity. But where there’s Walsh there’s Beckett.

4/5

June 27, 2017

June

New company Gorgeous Theatre launch with an almost entirely wordless production in the intimate surroundings of Trinity College’s Players Theatre.

 

Bob (Noel Cahill) meets Alice (Helen McGrath). They hit it off, and from a romance that begins with childish enthusiasm they plan to go on a holiday away together in high summer. What could be more fun than swimming and building sand castles? But there’s something odd surrounding their preparations. Alice thinks she hears someone outside their door while they’re packing, but when Bob heroically leaps out with a knife to confront the lurking menace, there’s nobody there. But the enigmatic June (Emma Brennan) is indeed waiting, smoking, observing, manipulating, and getting ready to start interfering with gusto. Because far from being an innocent getaway for two, June insinuates herself, by ‘accident’, into their beach vacation, and soon the simple holiday is taking a distinct detour into surreal seductions in the vein of Pasolini’s Teorema or the Rocky Horror Show.

My regular theatre cohort Fiachra MacNamara confirmed the soundness of my initial flashbacks to the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe show The Ladder and the Moon, devised by Nessa Matthews, Ian Toner, and Eoghan Carrick. The mime of childish enthusiasm and romance was very similar, and may perhaps be inevitable when you try to convey such sentiments physically, but June is longer, darker, and more interested in the use of music than The Ladder and the Moon. There are indeed entire sequences set to music, like the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s ‘Take Five’ or Jens Lekman’s ‘Black Cab’, that veer almost from physical theatre to pure interpretive dance. Which is a bold move for a new company’s first show, given that people unapologetically walked out of Arlington at the Abbey recently; almost physically and ironically conveying the idea “I don’t do interpretive dance.”

Given this importance of music it should be no surprise there’s an almost Lynchian change in the soundtrack as the play progresses; a sunny, upbeat soundscape of Cliff Richard and Dave Brubeck is replaced by the moodiness of (perhaps) Chet Baker and the starkness of the Pixies’ ‘Hey’. Who is June? What is June? Daniel O’Brien’s story is more interested in raising questions like that than answering them, and director Ciaran Treanor plays on the contrast between June’s angelic white costume and her frequent disappearances into black space with a lit cigarette revealing her presence like a demonic eye. All of a part with the totemic but ambiguous action figures representing Bob and Alice. Cahill and McGrath perform some spectacular pratfalls in their energetic turns, and there is a delirious moment where melancholy music is actually revealed to be from a portable radio.

June is not going to appeal to everyone, but it is endearing throughout, with all three actors clearly giving it their all, and veers into unexpected territory right up to its ambiguous ending.

3/5

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