This Decadent Theatre Company’s production of Eugene O’Brien’s play is a gripping story of a marriage that has gone stale for the husband, Billy (Patrick Ryan) who has his eye on another woman, Imelda. However, Billy’s wife, Breda (Lesley Conroy) has lost weight, is feeling good about herself and is convinced the couple can reignite their passion.
Set over the course of a weekend in the pubs and clubs of a midlands town at the turn of the 21st century, the play is pared back to its essentials. The two characters perform interlocking monologues, never interacting with each other. This theatrical device makes for intimacy with the audience. It also underscores just how detached Billy has become from his wife. Physically, the couple are at a distance from each other on the stage, which is adorned with nothing more than a bench and an abstract painting as the backdrop.
Billy is not the most edifying of characters with his coarse language and rhyming slang. Glugging back booze, he envies the local lothario, Tony, known as James Galway for his magic ‘flute,’ signifying his sexual prowess. Billy has an ongoing fantasy in his head about being in a field with Imelda, filled with desire. The play is ostensibly about desire but it’s also about delusional thinking.
Breda is a likeable character whose sexual fantasy is to be chosen from a harem by the Sultan. She is not as complicated as her husband. She simply wants some passion back in her marriage but is too quick to attach significance to Billy’s apparent encouraging behaviour. His mind is always elsewhere.
A cast of unseen characters inhabits the play whose offshoot was O’Brien’s popular TV series, Pure Mule. There is comedy here but mostly the play is overshadowed by Billy’s frustration as he tries to get lucky with Imelda. As the play progresses, Billy’s vulnerability emerges, despite his machismo.
Both performances are strong. Ryan’s midlands’ accent is spot on. The denouement, from Billy’s perspective, is humiliating, while Breda finds her own passion.
* Continues until Saturday.
Star Rating: 4/5
Presented as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival but set in an art gallery, This Is Not My Voice Speaking more closely resembles an installation than a theatrical performance. The audience — up to four people are allowed in at a time — are divided into One and Zero, and participate by following the instructions dictated by a disembodied female voice on an old analogue tape recorder.
The tasks undertaken by One and Zero are hardly onerous: they are variously required to turn a film projector on and off, to place a finger on a vinyl record to slow it down, and to assist in showing slides on a screen. Nor are the results particularly exciting: there is a point at which the bearded individual projected on the wall instructs Zero to move a device that causes his image to be projected again on a separate screen. It’s hardly high-tech, but that is apparently the point: to challenge a digital-savvy audience to re-engage with analogue devices.
There is some humour to be derived from following the instructions. Anyone of a certain age will remember the devices — the tape recorder, the slide projector, the film camera — being employed in second- and third-level institutions as a means of enlivening the dissemination of knowledge. Perhaps this flashback to one’s youth is what makes the audience so docile: what is most remarkable about This Is Not My Voice Speaking is the participants’ willingness to do as they are told, even in a space that should encourage a sense of subversion.
The piece is not very long — less than half an hour — and for that much at least one can be grateful. But its apparent purpose, to provoke reflection on how quickly technology becomes dated, hardly justifies the effort required to engage with it. What devotees of analogue recording most cherish is the warmth of its sound: this installation fails to touch on that at all.
Star Rating: 3/5