Reviews

Theatre: We Were There

Reviews

This is the story of three ordinary people in Jerusalem in the lead-up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Devised and directed by Dolores Mannion of the Cork Arts Theatre, the play is based on Gospel stories, including the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, and the cripple who walks thanks to Jesus’s intervention.

There are just three characters: Bina, sensitively played by Martina Carroll; her sister, Esther, whose changing attitude towards Jesus is well-conveyed by Antoinette Hilliard; and Bina’s adult son, Avraham (Mark Cosgrave), a guard at the temple.

While the story is strong, interjected with humour initially, it could be more dramatic.

The first act is all about establishing the unseen presence of Jesus, whom Avraham calls "a notorious maverick". There is much telling and little showing. The latest news surrounding Jesus is related by Esther in Bina’s terracotta kitchen. Avraham is concerned about keeping the peace, and is justifiably worried about his job, because Jesus has been in his and Bina’s home at an unruly gathering.

At first, Esther sees Jesus as a celebrity — she says she felt that he was talking directly to her at one of his appearances.

But Bina is sceptical and Avraham is disbelieving. Esther floats in and out of the kitchen, while Bina cooks and bakes and responds to her sister’s bits of news.

However, Esther is highly critical of Jesus for having allowed his feet to be massaged by a prostitute. Esther goes along with the fickle tide of public opinion and shows her true colours when she announces that she has a ringside seat to witness the crucifixion.

The second act consists of monologues in which the trio responds to the crucifixion. Each one says: "It was like it was me up there." Ultimately, Jesus engenders a humane response from these witnesses to his murder. Even Esther reconnects with her latent kind nature.

Until April 26

Star Rating: 3/5

Theatre: The Nose

Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar

By Pádraic Killeen

Russian writer Nikolai Gogol’s 1835 short story, The Nose, is one of his favourites and it has often been adapted for the stage.

Few of those adaptations could match Bruiser Theatre Company’s new show for sheer intensity and verve in immersing us in Gogol’s delirious world. Writer Patrick J O’Reilly relocates the tale from Gogol’s St Petersburg to 1920s New York. This allows director Lisa May to mobilise all manner of enjoyable conceits, from a ragtime music score to silent-era slapstick, vaudeville, and the gangster film.

The show begins in a frantic newsroom, where two buffoonish reporters (played by O’Reilly and Canadian actor Mitchel Rose) are forced to drum up a lead story, following a grilling from their boss. The story they fabricate is Gogol’s own story, with a few modest alterations.

Here, it is the nose of the city mayor that departs the face of its owner, rather than the nose of a middle-ranked civil servant, as in Gogol’s tale.

When Rose’s lecherous, high-living mayor tracks down his fugitive facial appendage in a church, the nose hilariously condemns him, before taking off on a life of crime and disrepute.

The mayor literally ‘loses face’, suffering ridiculous encounters with a mob-man, a deranged backstreet doctor and, finally, a court case.

In spoofing society’s emphasis on public perception, O’Reilly and May capture the satirical subtext of Gogol’s absurdism, and by invoking the tabloid newsroom milieu, they make it pertinent to our own, invasive times.

"We’ve got your private life and now it’s in the news," the two hacks sing.

Both actors rifle through numerous parts and play them all with aplomb, their manic physical contortions and boundless energy a highlight of the show. Also a delight is the use of sound effects and props, with visual elements — the mayor’s chain of office and other objects being made of newspaper cut-out.

Star Rating: 5/5

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