Intense and at times mordantly funny, Dick Walsh’s new play makes for a provocative hour in the theatre.
Against the backdrop of large distorting mirrors that send images of the audience back at ourselves, actors Ollie Braddell, Gráinne Hallahan, Fionnuala Flaherty, and Shane Connolly re-enact exchanges that Walsh has taken verbatim from real life talk-shows. The topics range from the trivial (Speedo trunks, piles) to the more serious (sex, abortion, death), and Walsh quotes them to raise questions rather than to peddle any messages. What comes across strongly is the strain on us as human beings to articulate our experience. Language fails us. Constantly.
But maybe it’s all we’ve got? It doesn’t fail us simply in terms of what we find difficult to say. It fails us by virtue of the fact that the very existence of language and, in particular, the incessant burble of media broadcasts in which we are immersed, makes us believe that we must have an opinion on everything. For this reason, under the compulsion to appear ‘informed’, people spit out the worst clichés and pass them off as dearly-felt beliefs.
At repeated moments during the show, the four characters issue their words with such little conviction that you can see they have become vessels for language run amok. Staring at the audience forlornly, their arms contorted in a range of weird, malfunctioning gestures, the actors reveal their terrible alienation even from the words that exit their lips.
But the Kerry-born playwright doesn’t parody talk-show speech, however. Just as often, the play makes you realise that the content (the dialogue) on these shows is often very incisive, eloquent, and heartfelt, qualities often muted by talk-show formats themselves. Just the same, the play is also very funny, as when some spiel about a woman hiding a turd in her purse is revealed to be a chat among doctors, one of whom suddenly seems to realise that, hey, there may be hygiene issues at stake here.