Pink Milk

First Written for The Reviews Hub June 2016

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PinkMilk_TheNewTheatre

Pink Milk – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Lauren Shannon Jones

Director: Nora Kelly-Lester
Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Pink Milk was created by Dublin’s The New Theatre artists in residence Lauren Shannon Jones and Nora Kelly-Lester. This writer and director duo have offered up an interesting one hour show in the form of Pink Milk. This is a dystopian fantasy, considerably different to their previously celebrated works Crow and The Assassination of Brian Boru. The New Theatre Residency Programme has given many artists the chance to develop their craft and this show suggests that Jones and Kelly-Lester are moving in the right direction.

Anna Matthews, played by Megan O’Flynn, lives alone on the top floor of a high-rise apartment. As she points out she is so high up even the clouds are below her. She never leaves her home and her only visitor is the delivery man. He waits outside her door with her parcels wearing a mask and tentatively trying to ask her out. There are some laughs and tender moments as he shows his interest in Anna and the audience seemed to be able to relate to the awkwardness of a relationship at its very beginning.

Both characters are trapped in their isolation. It is not just physical. The high-rise apartment keeps them apart from the rest of mankind, however they have both adopted different versions of themselves in alternate reality. Online Anna is a media goddess. The stage darkens. O’Flynn stands in the centre. White squares and futuristic music play out in the background as she dons her headphones and preaches the religion of entertainment to her followers. In this life she is a media goddess, so very different to the wary person who lives alone, receiving boxes of white clothes in the post. Her life is always ordered and controlled until she begins a relationship with the delivery man Auster, played by Shane Robinson.

It is slightly scary to see how the seeds of digital control and isolation are sown and could easily turn into the twisted world view that Pink Milk presents. The way in which our online lives impact upon our day to day life and relationships is interesting and current. As Auster spends his spare time playing video games with strangers online we see that he is just as alone as Anna. No longer investing in anything outside of their virtual lives; they seem to have separated themselves from their work and their pasts in order to be able to cope with the reality they find themselves in. This dystopian love story is flooded with loneliness as the characters create and hide behind their masks to avoid facing the bad things that they have done.

Unfortunately, Pink Milk tells but doesn’t show. It seems that the characters have to tell the audience what they should think and feel because the plot and characters are not showing us this. Innovative ideas are let down by lack of narrative drive, with little for the audience to sink their teeth into. The poignant, somewhat sad ending is the highlight as our protagonists are finally drawn together; offering a peek into their lives before they invested themselves online. Pink Milk shows the seeds of a unique idea that with further development could turn into something special.

Runs until 9 July 2016 | Image: New Theatre

The Reviews Hub Score 2.5*

Futuristic

Harold Pinter: The Theatre of Menace

First Written for The Reviews Hub May 2016

Theatre of Menace

Harold Pinter: The Theatre of Menace – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: Harold Pinter
Reviewer: Laura Marriott

PurpleCoat Theatre Company begins their annual visit to Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre this May with the The Theatre of Menace. More generally known for their electrifying Shakespeare productions, they are attempting something new with a night of short works by Harold Pinter. This is an unusual move, however, it quickly pays off. The Theatre of Menace is a remarkable collection from one of the 20th Century’s most celebrated playwrights. Although the extracts are relatively short, it is long enough to become intrigued by Pinter and inspired to find out more.

The staging is sparse. One table is draped with a white tablecloth, a photo frame perched on top and two chairs is all that takes up the space during the first half. Each new extract is introduced by a light shone onto the brick back wall of the theatre. The performers are lit by spotlights, reflecting the constant interplay between light and shadow that occurs on stage. Throughout the performers only wear black and white. For the second half, a second table topped with wine glasses is bought onto the stage and extra chairs are dotted around. The lack of clutter and lighting gives room for the excellent cast of actors to breathe life into Pinter’s language and the relationships he imagined. The staging adds to the feeling of intimacy, of being allowed to witness something personal taking place.

PurpleCoat has a way of bringing out the ambiguity and darkness that seems to lurk beneath much of Pinter. The characters, often under pressure, find themselves in unusual situations,  such as in A Kind of Alaskaand Mountain Language. Here power and language take centre stage in a truly sinister way that perfectly encapsulates why this collection of Pinter’s has been titled The Theatre of Menace. In other stories, the characters deliver unusual but deeply telling stories. The heartbreak of the one man speech from the second act of The Caretaker is so convincing the audience cannot feel but a little taken by surprise, almost punctured by what they have seen. In contrast to this humour, switches to strangeness and fear in Victoria Station, where it is impossible to fully tell who is good and who is bad. A late night conversation between and taxi driver and his controller begins with hilarity before taking a turn for the surreal and then dangerous. Danger runs throughout the production. The night closes with Celebration. Celebration manages to be both humorous while also revealing of the strained relationships that almost seem to be falling apart on stage.

It would have been wonderful to have seen some of these shorts in their full form, especially as PurpleCoat prove themselves easily able to rise to the challenge of interpreting Pinter’s tragi-comic language. Interestingly they move between his early and later career, avoiding chronology and instead linking the pieces together by theme. In this Theatre of Menace, the characters always seem to be on the edge and, indeed, that audience will find themselves on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

Runs until 21 May 2016 | Image: PurpleCoat

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Menacing

Wunderbar – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

First published January 2015

WUNDERBAR - Project Arts Centre

Wunderbar – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Choreography and Performance: Laura Murphy and Rob Heaslip

Director: Tom Creed

Expert dancers Laura Murphy and Rob Heaslip have bought their two person dance performance to Dublin’s Project Arts Centre for two nights only.

Wunderbar began as a 15 minute set piece for 2014’s Dublin Dance Festival and is developed into a full length, 40 minute performance. The magic of the show lies in the fact that Murphy and Heaslip hold the audience’s attention for the duration, making something beautiful look effortless. The performance feels as though only moments have passed when the final curtain falls.

The title Wunderbar comes from the German word meaning ‘wonderful’; which is an appropriate summation of the performance. The pair investigate power play in romantic relationships through form and movement, with each section building on from the last to grow into something ‘wonderful’.

The two dancers’ physical duet explore relationship stability, tension and power to a live score created by Irene Buckle. At the beginning the dancers are close, moving in perfect unison, following each other’s movements while remaining separate. The stage is bare and makes use of only two stage lights, one on either side of the stage to illuminate the drama and tension being bought to life. Precise and expertly choreographed movements seem to plot out the “couple’s” story, their relationship, on the stage. The emptiness of the stage at the beginning echoes the state of their relationship and as the second light switches on the couple become increasingly close, experimenting with the struggle between power and independence. They move through the space on the stage, gradually branching out from their starting positions, which were defined by the presence of the other.

As the dance progresses the movements become almost confrontational as their search for a balance between togetherness and independence takes place in the space between them. At one point close to the end the duo perform a powerful final choreography, holding and pushing each other’s faces away without ever fully breaking apart. The performance ends with Murphy and Heaslip in a reversal of their starting positions encouraging the audience to look deeply into this cyclical performance.

Wunderbar is a compelling physical expression of commonly felt emotions; the entanglement of confusion and desire that constitutes many relationships, and is guaranteed to hold the audience captive throughout.

Photo courtesy of the Project Arts Centre. Runs until January 9th.

The Public Reviews Score: 4*

Engaging