Electric

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Electric – Theatre Upstairs, Dublin

Writer: Ali Hardman

Director: Clare Maguire

On balance it is fair to argue that the opening night of Ali Hardman’s new play Electric, is more enjoyable than a trip to Electric Picnic. Although this may say something about the lack of shower facilities at most festivals, it also highlights how fun and entertaining Electric is.

One of the standout points of the play is the level of attention to detail and the set design. When the audience are collecting their tickets, each person is issued with an Electric wrist band, excellently designed and eye catching. While waiting for the doors to open glitter face paint is also available for free. Most audience members have blue glitter wings winking in the dark. Starting the production in this way was a pleasant surprise that put people in a good mood and helped to foster a festival atmosphere. This is enhanced when the theatre doors open and the two actors, Hardman and Roe, have already taken to the stage and are dancing away to the pulsing music familiar to all festival goers.

Joni and Scarlett have both set out on an adventure at Electric Picnic. Scarlett, played by Ali Hardiman, is a privately educated young woman from Dalkey who has been pushed into the festival by her mam. With a dislike of dirt, her friends and being surrounded by people her long weekend does not start out well. In contrast Joni, with a rough Dublin accent, glitter decoration and a pack of lager has been looking forward to this since last years festival ended. With completely different friendship groups their paths do not cross until a chance encounter sees the direction of their weekend change – perhaps for the better. In costuming that complements their characters, Hardiman and Roe play off each other well. Hardiman’s script artfully skewers class divides and stereotypes by reaching beyond them to create a rounded, realistic friendship between two young women. Their new relationship throws existing friendships into sharp focus and forces the characters to assess what they really value in themselves and in others. Supplemented by the engaging and humourous Electric is a comedy with a heart.

Coordinated by set designer Ursula McGinn Electric demonstrates a detailed and precise level of detail that one does not usually see in a one-hour production. In the bar outside picture frames are decorated with flower garlands and lights; the words ‘Welcome’ and ‘Electric’ spelt out in bright multi – coloured blocks. Inside the theatre space strings of lights, ribbons and paper chains hang over the seating area. Lighting Designer Shane Gill works well with McGinn to create a bright, enticing theatre space. Fabric in soft colours, artfully lit from behind drape the rear of the stage. Large dreamcatchers are dotted about the place and the stage itself is covered in colourful confetti. Further, over the past few months there has been a noticeable improvement in the attention paid to creating informative and decent programmes, and Electric fits into the new trend.

Hardman, who last appeared at Theatre Upstairs in Fizzy Drinks With Two Straws, has shown development as a writer with Electric marking her first full length production. The play ended with the audience rising to their feet and cheering, proving that Electric is a play not to be missed.

Runs until 5th May 2019 | Image: Contributed

Debris

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Writer: Dennis Kelly

Director: Cathal Cleary

It is very unusual that one sees a theatre production that is truly unique, however Reality Check’s opening night of Debris, at Smock Alley Theatre, really was a one-of-a-kind night of entertainment.

Debris has a powerful opening. Shane O’Regan, playing the sixteen year old Michael, takes to the stage and tells the audience a story. On his sixteenth birthday his father built an eighteen foot crucifix in the living room.

Taking place in the Boys School, the stage has been decreased in size to bring the actors and audience closer together and to emphasise the gritty, earthy feel of the play. This is reinforced by the floor covered in gravel and dirt. Low lighting, smoke, and the use of pulsating sounds create an atmosphere of tension as the audience enter.

Described in the programme as an “odyssey of pain, blood, love and loss” as the play unfolds the audience are taken on a journey to see how this family of three ended up in this situation. Michael’s sister Michelle, played by Clara Harte, is equally disturbed. Telling different stories about how she was born Michelle has created a fantasy world around her, whereas Michael ends the play with a new awareness of what it means to be alive in the world.

Debris is Kelly’s first play and also marks the first time that Debris has been performed in Dublin. Under the direction of Cleary, Debris flows as O’Regan and Harte take turns to offer their perspective and drive the narrative forward, occasionally linking together their stories and reflections. When the world is seen through their child’s eyes it seems even more absurd and confusing than usual. A thick strain of black humour runs from start to finish as Michael and Michelle try to make sense of their surroundings.

Debris is a compelling short play that never dips in intensity or drama.

Runs until 21st April 2018 | Image: Contributed

HOME

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Home – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Megan O’Malley
Director: Fiona Frawley

Who is innocent and who is guilty? Only you can decide.

Home is the sort of play that when you think you have everything figured out it turns around and surprises you. Showing at Dublin’s The New Theatre Home also introduces the talent of writer (and performer) Megan O’Malley.

Tackling head on the sexual politics of a group of college students Home starts out as a spiky comedy. Each actor gets to show off his or her comedic ability as the audience peer in on their private conversations and meetups. It doesn’t take long though before one realises that there is so much more going on. Mike and Anna are on a Tinder date. Flowers, nervous one-liners and bad drinking games ensue. If only Anna’s sister Emily were not sat in between them glowering at Mike every chance she gets. Several hours later, drunk and tired, the trio make it home. The events of that night will unravel in police statements and court testimonies. The next morning Anna cannot remember anything that happened but when she discovers that she is pregnant one bad night is about to turn into a lifetime of regret.

There are no obvious winners or losers in this sharp political commentary that couldn’t be timelier with the ever-growing conversation around the Repeal the Eighth movement. Home avoids falling into didacticism and instead shows the murky grey areas between the laws provided by the constitution and real everyday lives. The early moments of humour fall to the wayside as the audience are drawn into the drama unfolding on stage. The play’s resolution is unique and deftly conducted. To avoid giving spoilers one cannot go into further detail except to say whatever you think will happen and whatever your political beliefs you will be surprised and entertained. The sadness that spikes the final moments are poignant are heart breaking. The uncluttered staging allows the words to speak for themselves in this memorable play from the Handy Baker Theatre Company.

Runs until 3 February 2018 | Image: Contributed

SAVE + QUIT

First Written for The Reviews Hub

SAVE + QUIT – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Sophia Leuner

Director: Billie De Buitlear

Two Londoners find themselves having to decide whether it is time to move on. Two former best friends in Dublin look to see whether tragedy can bring them together once more. Save + Quit are two short plays connected by themes of moving on; of closing one chapter in life and deciding whether to walk towards another.

This is writer Sophia Leuner’s first work for the stage. It shows great ability and command of language. Comedy rubs up against pathos throughout. Class and the social divides that define a city are investigated through each character and their relationships with others. The audience laughed at the Tallaght / Dalkey romance and the city being separated by more than constant road works. The regional jokes played well in the second Dublin based half which also had some great moments of storytelling.

The young cast do particularly well at mimicking and impersonating others, switching between characters with just a change of stance. Save + Quit portrays both London and Dublin as cold and at times outright hostile places to live with the only chance for salvation being found in friendship. The isolation of urban life is picked apart as Joe and Steph struggle to manage as they move fully into their adult lives and as Cara and Dylan struggle to reconnect.

The stage is occupied only by two chairs with spotlights on each character as they speak. The hour fliess by as the face paced witty dialogue keeps the audience interested. Save + Quit is a character driven story that is full of wisdom as it unwinds. Adult growing pains are portrayed delicately, casually and with verve.

Save + Quit is a study of how we react when life throws up obstacles and changes. It is full of humour and with enough sadness to make a real impact. Worth a watch.

Runs until 20 January 2018 | Image: Contributed