Shakers

Shakers, Smock Alley – Dublin

Writer: John Godber, Jane Thornton

Director: Claudia Kinahan

Cast: Connie Doona, Meg O’Brien, Hannah Osborne, Heather O’Sullivan

 

It is Friday night and fancy bar Shakers is packed to the rafters and four waitresses are rushed off their feet. Smiling and indulging the customers it is only when they are alone that their masks are taken off and the real characters emerge.

Carol, Adele, Nicky and Mel are going to be working until the last customer leaves, whether that means they will be there until 11pm or 2am. It is not an easy job and as they tell us, in rhyme (a great addition to the script), at times it is hellish, but the relationships they have made with each other lighten up the long nights. We follow the four over the course of one night, as they deal with every time of punter you can imagine, from young business men out on the pull to shop assistants who have saved up to spend their night off in the most glamorous spot in town. Occasionally each character takes the spotlight and launches into a soliloquy. This gives the audience a chance to hear their inner thoughts, hopes and fears. Their life situations are understandable and likely to be shared by many in the audience. The fear of saying ‘I just want to be looked after’, ‘I wish I could be footloose and fancy free’, ‘I’m scared of what the future holds’, stands out in its simplicity and truth.

The difficulty of working in places like this, particularly when female, are brought to the fore. The manager wants them to wear shorts, has previously told waitresses to lose weight, tells them to smile at bottom pinchers and put up with leerers and handsy customers. None of this feels exaggerated or laboured. The ultimate dilemma is highlighted when Carol considers breaking ranks with the others and wearing the shorts. She has a young daughter to get home to and principle often has to take a back seat to reality. During each soliloquy the stage goes dark except for a spotlight on the speaker. The others busy themselves with customers on the fringes. The set is kept to a minimum with light bouncing off the brick wall of the Boys School. Two lamps stand to the left of the stage. They are statues of women’s legs with lamps on top. This felt vaguely reminiscent of the milk bar in A Clockwork Orange but it is more likely that they were designed to parallel the action on centre stage; four women who when at work are not themselves, they are taught to hide their personalities and instead present a light and airy persona. On a practical note it would have been helpful if the lights had have been turned back on during the interval.

The four actors are obviously well practised as they work off each other with ease. It was particularly enjoyable to follow the adventures of the four young shop assistants, gearing up for a 21st, as they get ready to hit Shakers, party, dance, and maybe pin Rob Kelly down for once. There were some lovely moments of physical comedy under the direction of Claudia Kinahan (who also directed a personal favourite and award winner Knowing Nathan at the Complex in 2018), as the four slip between characters with ease, using accents and movement to inhabit each new character. The writing is frequently sharp and witty and the use of rhyme throughout keeps the action bouncing along. Although Shakers didn’t quite have the bite that the script suggests it wanted, and on occasion felt like a display of acting technique, it is a sparky and fun production at one of the top destinations in town.

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Knowing Nathan

Knowing Nathan – The Complex, Dublin
Writers: Tony Doyle and Laura O’Shea
Director: Claudia Kinahan

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(Laura O’Shea as April and Tony Doyle as Danny)

Knowing Nathan, currently running at The Complex, is the new play from actors and writers Tony Doyle and Laura O’Shea.

When Tallaght native Danny meets Limerick girl April in a pub on the Dublin Quays their lives will be altered forever.

Knowing Nathan begins with a kick. For the audience the jokes about Dublin and Limerick stereotypes went down a treat as April and Danny discover that they have a lot in common. The conversation moves quickly as does their relationship. Soon they go from meeting in pubs and bars to being introduced to the parents and sharing a home. Their relationship is hit with a surprise that will determine whether love will conquer all.

Knowing Nathan is funny and sparky from the off. As Danny and April’s monologues join together into one flow of conversation and ideas, the way in which they speak mirrors their relationship. There are many laugh out loud moments as their relationship begins to blossom. Doyle and O’Shea occasionally slip into other characters with just a change in stance and accent. They bounce off each other excellently and are convincing as a young couple in love and under pressure. As the narrative evolves Knowing Nathan becomes something delicate and full of emotion; surprising the audience with how much they can feel in the space of an hour.

The duo make good use of staging and props; evoking the idea of home, parents, pubs, a hospital and an empty bed with simplicity and fluidity. Knowing Nathan is a beautiful play that moves with ease between humour and sadness; told with sincerity and skill. I went into this play not knowing what to expect but this was an evening well spent. There was a full house and a standing ovation at tonight’s performance. Book ahead to guarantee a seat.

Runs Until 27th January 2018.