Broken Crow’s amusing play, written by Adam Wyeth, is the strongest at SHOW, a mini-festival of new work from Cork-based theatre companies.
Lifedeath has the veneer of a conventional drawing-room farce, complete with Chesterfield couch and an air of sophistication, but is more than a mere comedy of manners and misunderstandings.
Thom (Chris Schmidt-Martin) is a writer, sitting at a desk on which is a typewriter. When Thom’s wife, Carol (Aideen Wylde), enters the room, she says there’s a boat about to hit the rocks, heralded by the urgent sound of a fog horn. Thom is underwhelmed, but is shaken out of his torpor when Carol tells him that his mother fears he is shirking his responsibilities.
Cue the imperious mother, played with steeliness by Paula McGlinchey. She is like an Oscar Wilde grand dame, superior and condescending. Her appearance is the trigger for the play’s absurdist turn.
There is nothing predictable about this drama, which dispenses with plot.
The author exults in surprising the audience with unexpected utterances from the characters. The title of the play is apposite. Despite its apparent silliness, issues of life and death are broached, with the apparently pregnant Carol saying she has changed her mind and wants an abortion.
In the meantime, Thom has an identity crisis, denying that he’s the son of the mother character. Onto the scene comes the local doctor, played by Ciarán Bermingham, who makes a curious speech about a beach pebble he picked up that turned out to be a gestating egg.
Just when the play looks like it might be skating into serious terrain, the mother declares that, really, life is “all about eye shadow.” This is a well-paced play that refuses to take itself seriously, but nonetheless touches on morality and responsibility. It ends a little too abruptly, but will leave a quizzical smile on your face.
Star Rating: 4/5
First staged at the Dublin Fringe festival in 2012, this revival of The Circus of Perseverance is a welcome one.
Produced by Cavan’s Gonzo Theatre company, it features an enormously talented ensemble cast and it is often incredibly funny. Strangely, however, despite its comedy revue aesthetic and its enjoyably brash, garish design, the piece is let down somewhat by a slight earnestness that gradually rises to the fore as the show progresses.
The circus opens with a ringleader who presents us with a series of sketches in which a panorama of characters walk the tightrope of life in the capital. The characters are impressively eclectic but also a little unsurprising.
There’s a girl left pregnant by a brief relationship, a taxi-driver who bemoans the passing of the old Dublin, a beleaguered priest, and a number of young men struggling with unemployment.
If the characters are stock, however, writer Philip Doherty puts them in inventive situations, some of which build to hilarious crescendos. Doherty is also good at observing the minutiae of city life. A parody involving a fare-dodger on the Luas is simply priceless.
Eventually, the show’s numerous characters and the narratives they inhabit begin to interlock. Structurally, this tapestry effect is very well-handled, but the weaving together also nurses a somewhat facile ‘commentary’. Good characters find themselves doing bad things.
Meanwhile, the simple human value of ploughing on with things (ie of persevering) is critiqued. In the midst of it all, there’s even a strangely nostalgic glance at the fall of the Church’s place in modern Ireland.
By the end, despite the ringleader’s closing remarks about the absurdity of it all, nothing especially novel or incisive has been said.
What the show will be remembered for instead is its boisterous comic energy, Doherty’s keen-eyed scenarios, and a set of performances that are at times quite astounding.
Star Rating: 4/5