Graffiti’s revival of Where in the World is Frank Sparrow? marks the Cork company’s first venture into the Half Moon Theatre, a venue ideally suited to drama.
Frank Sparrow was commissioned by Graffiti from the American writer Angela Betzien, and was previously performed in the company’s own theatre space in Blackpool. Direction is by Emilie Fitzgibbon.
Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow opens tomorrow.. Looking forward to welcoming this cracking show!— Cork Opera House (@CorkOperaHouse) February 24, 2014
The production is aimed squarely at a teenage audience. Its themes, of alienation, conflict and the redeeming powers of love, will be familiar to most from youth television, but are here explored by five actors performing multiple roles.
Tadhg Hickey plays the titular character, a sickly baby found on wasteland who grows up to be a juvenile delinquent. His meeting with Ciara Kelly (Aideen Wylde) sparks off a war between the Kellys and the Souths, the two rival gangs in Shadow City. Hickey brings a suitable intensity to the role of Frank, whose fecklessness is leavened by the sweetness of his voice when he is called upon to sing.
Betzien’s writing is sometimes a little dense, particularly in her over-use of rhyme. This can lead to awkward phrasing.
There are also times when her use of animal characters can become a mite confusing: Frank is advised by a rat, a hare and a goat — all of whom are dead — and is pursued by a fox and a crow, emissaries from the underworld. The audience is left to wonder whether all the animals have Frank’s interests at heart, or just some.
But the production certainly engages the senses. Ronan Fitzgibbon’s set is built around a series of scaffolds, on which four television sets flicker throughout. The sound-track, by Cormac O’Connor is at times melancholy, but is more often designed to drive the narrative on, not least when the characters beat out percussive patterns on the metal set.
The frenetic action holds the attention of the audience throughout, and at one hour, the production is just long enough to present a compelling story without stretching its material too thin.
Danu Theatre Company and Orion Productions’ Breathless has an interesting premise. Four women, strangers to each other, meet up in a sort of Limbo where they recount their stories about having been murdered.
To their families and friends, they are missing, presumed dead. When the play opens, the nameless characters can be heard making their way from the auditorium, talking about shoes.
But just when you think this is going to be a boring girly play, the dialogue changes tack, with the characters talking about their lives and the dreadful ends they met at the hands of violent men.
The dominant character is well played by Donna Patrice, who takes an immediate dislike to Sinéad O’Riordan’s character, a privileged doctor’s daughter in her earthly life. But despite her former cosseted existence, O’Riordan’s character reveals the darkness she lived with and her constant pre-occupation with death. She sees what happened to her as destiny. She believes in a higher power and thinks there is order in the world.
Meanwhile, Ruth McCabe’s character expresses the notion that all anyone has is their memories. She gives a chilling account of how, having got the all clear from cancer, she met her brutal end having gone to a night club to celebrate her good news. Kate Gilmore’s character is that of a ditzy young woman who wonders if there will be dancing in heaven.
Written by John MacKenna, the play is very much a vehicle for exploring the big questions, the meaning of life and fate versus randomness. There is no plot. The drama lies in the brutal stories that the women recount about meeting their killers.
David Butler’s impressive set design depicts a squat. It’s a kind of hell in which Patrice’s character mentions Godot. But the women are not waiting for anyone, apart from the ditzy one who is not totally bereft of hope.