Director: Karl Shields
The Theatre Upstairs can be easy to miss but it would be a shame to walk past without going inside. Located above a bar on Eden Quay in central Dublin, it faces out onto the River Liffey making it one of the most surprisingly beautiful of the smaller, independent theatre spaces to have opened up in recent years.
Hollow Ground is written by Katie McCann, who also stars as Hazel. Theatre Upstairs fosters a grass roots approach to theatre making, with many of those involved in productions taking on multiple rôles. Another example of this is Hollow Ground’s co-star Rex Ryan, who plays Graham, an up and coming writer and actor in his own right.
In Hollow Ground the two actors confront the audience. Remaining largely still, they rely on facial and body movements, as well as voice and language, to deliver the story. Both McCann and Ryan are mostly successful in this and use a stark contrast of tension and fluidity to portray emotion.
The script is well written, taking the form of the intersecting monologues of two sibling who, after a time apart, find themselves being pulled back together and forced to confront the past. The audience soon realise that something dark is at the crux of this sibling separation. As Hazel tries to make a life for herself elsewhere, Graham finds himself unable to do so. Both are trapped in the same confused memories that haunt their dreams at night and each character offers differing reactions to these past events. As the two are pulled closer together their reactions become more pronounced as the tension and fear of having to face up to what lies beneath the hollow ground they have based their adult lives upon impacts their present lives.
The theatre space is well utilised with lighting and smoke two particular successes. As the audience enter, the silhouette of the two actors are framed by the smoke, making for an interesting and unique entrance. Orange and yellow lights adorn the wall behind the actors and are used to dramatic effect throughout, often complimented by the show’s sound design. The stage itself is sparse however the flooring has been adapted and functions unusually as a prop for the production.
Hollow Ground is an intense and dramatic tale of two siblings navigating the shared dark and twisted memories of their pasts in order to find their way to the surface.
Photo courtesy of Theatre Upstairs. Runs until March 21st.