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

July 15, 2019

Kate Crackernuts

No Drama Theatre returned to Smock Alley’s main stage with an eccentric fairytale by NYC playwright and screenwriter Sheila Callaghan.

The ever capable Kate (Megan Carter) faces a challenge when her beautiful step-sister Anne (Siobhan Hickey) comes to her with a blanket over her face to hide the fact that her beautiful head has been switched for that of a sheep. Kate’s own mother (Greg Freegrove) is the suspect, but this wicked stepmother may have done it by accident, as the local mystic (Darcy Donnelan) may have got her pickled and enchanted eggs all muddled. A headless sheep (Dave McGovern) is convinced that Anne has got his head, but finds it hard to get an opportunity to just ask for his head back when Kate and Anne fall into the orbit of brothers Paul (Shane Robinson) and Ralph (Daniel O’Brien). The path of true love is not smooth though, Kate needs to wean Paul away from Miss Prima (Sorcha Maguire)…

Callaghan’s play is apparently based on a Scottish fairytale, to which she has added some modern notes. Carter splendidly embodies the no-nonsense nature of Callaghan’s heroine, an early rapid-fire exchange with her sister typical: “What did you eat for breakfast?” “An omelette” “Mother made it?” “Yes” “What she did eat?” “…Cereal” “Ah..” But Callaghan includes a fake happy ending before the more ambiguous real one because this is a fairytale that isn’t interested in simple solutions. Ralph becomes besotted with Anne, sheep’s head and all, but you shouldn’t think of Shakespeare’s Bottom so much as Woody Allen’s EYAWTKAS* (BWATA) Gene Wilder vignette. O’Brien has a scene-stealing monologue on how it’s finally his turn for romance with Anne before hysterically unconcealed disappointment that Anne has got her human head back and therefore lost that furry quality that made her his soul-mate.

The vibrant lights and sound of Dan Donnelly, Suzie Cummins, and Hasan Kamal are very effective in transforming the sparsely furnished stage into a nightclub presided over by Prima. My regular theatre cohort Fiachra MacNamara and I thoroughly disagreed over the meaning of what happened there. I took it as an allegory for drug addiction – that the more Paul, rendered by Robinson almost as a Baz Luhrmann bohemian, fell under the spell of Prima, the further he became detached from his true self, his voice (Ali Keohane). Fiachra took it as an allegory for the dwindling influence over Paul of his dead mother, which is why his voice eventually saved Prima’s neglected Baby (Rahul Dewan), trusting him to Kate. Either interpretation fits the redemptive outcome desired by Paul and Ralph’s widowed father (Greg Freegrove again), a rich but clueless king.

3/5

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