Dinner in Mulberry Street

Dinner in Mulberry Street – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre

Writer: Fitz-James O’Brien

Adaption: Michael James Ford

Director: Bairbre Ni Chaoimh

In Dinner in Mulberry Street Christmas in New York is falling far short of a fairy tale. It is 1857 and newlyweds Agnes and Dick have fallen on hard times. Unable to find work they must use every ounce of creativity and initiative that they have to avoid starvation. As the drama unfolds pieces of their former life are brought to life. Agnes was a social heiress; used to the finer things in life and without a care in the world. When she met Dick, a charming and worldly young man with big ideas they fell in love. Marrying for affection saw them abandoned by their wealthy relatives and left navigating a world of poverty. Having sold all that they own and resorting to using the last of their furniture for firewood, they are in need of a miracle. With Christmas just around the corner will our couple find salvation in time?

The entire play takes place within their tenement room. The world outside is alluded to and feels as though it is pushing inwards. There are thugs on the corner and the ever-present fear of the landlord is stark when a surprise knock comes to their door. Based on a short story by Cork-born Fitz-James O’Brien Dinner in Mulberry Street is of its time. Although an engaging and hopeful story an opportunity to do something a little different was missed. The financial difficulty that the couple found themselves in could have been further drawn out. References to the perilous rental situation and financial strain of the Christmas period should have been particularly poignant.

Under set designer Andrew Murray Bewley’s has been turned into a mid-nineteenth century tenement home. The pallet bed in the corner and furniture made of wine crates immediately placed the action in the poverty and grime of the 1850s. The table set to the back of the stage remains bare except for a tablecloth. This is where much of the action is focused as Agnes and Dick fantasise about past meals and bring them to life with their imagination. A fire faces into the stage and Colm Maher’s lighting design complements the feel of the play as the stage is imbued with warmth and light at key moments.

There were some artful moments of comedy under the direction of Bairbre Ni Chaoimh. As Agnes and Dick role-play their old lives and past meals that they have relished, they each take on the part of former butler Hamish; slipping into Scottish accents to differentiate each character. This was carried on into the comical fight scene between Giacomo and Dick which was entertaining to watch. Ashleigh Dorrell played the part of frustrated, hungry, hopeful wife wonderfully. Subtle changes in mood and hand gestures let the audience into her character. The central relationship is well played and Dorrell and Jamie O’Neill as Dick make a convincing couple.

Dinner in Mulberry Street is a pleasant Christmas treat.

Image: Contributed

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Stop / Over

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Stop / Over, The Chocolate Factory, Dublin – Dublin Fringe Festival

 

Writer: Gary Duggan

Director: Nicola Murphy

The audience enters the theatre on the third floor of The Chocolate Factory to the sound of musician Keiji Ishiguri playing keyboard and delivering the most soulful version of mid-noughties hit Toxic (sorry Britney, but yes, this version was better). The music fades and two college friends, played by Ashleigh Dorrell and Siobhan Callaghan take to the stage.

The two Dubliners are meeting up for F’s last few days of her American road trip. M has spent the last three years living in New York but is excited to reconnect with someone from her past. It soon becomes clear that there is an underlying tension in their relationship and that once upon a time they were perhaps more than friends but not quite a couple. From the subway station to a tiny New York flat they set out for a nighttime odyssey through drink, drugs, sex, emotion, and confusion. Full of ideas of the past and hopes for what they could be as they dream and hallucinate, the audience follow them as they either fall together or fall apart.

Stop / Over makes full use of the whole of the third floor for the production. Turning the open plan, spare surroundings of The Chocolate Factory into New York. An otherwise empty space becomes Central Park in the rain, lights falling like raindrops on the couple as they work themselves out and recover from the high of the night before. Audiovisuals and movement were smoothly integrated into the story line with the soundscape and lighting propelling the narrative forward. This movement towards the immersive shows an interesting development for writer Gary Duggan that has proved very popular with audiences and adds extra value to the production.

Although F and M are so young at times their story felt older, as the themes reverberate with anyone who has wanted to love. The sense of longing, lust, and loneliness was palpable and yet one was never quite sure what would happen next. An immersive experience that fizzes with emotion and promise.

Image: Contributed