Review - Theatre - Vardo

Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin
****

Vardo is the final play in Anu Production’s acclaimed ‘Monto Cycle’ series. Vardo is site-specific, immersive theatre that, like its predecessors, unfolds in a blur of movement around the streets of a small section of Dublin’s north inner city. In the play’s pivotal sequence, the audience is exposed to a bleak, non-descript, modern apartment, wherein a prostitution den has been set up.

You soon realise this den is operating without the consent of all the women, and in the kitchen space a horrifying injustice lingers in the air. Very soon, the innocuous table you sit beside is transformed, by the force of words alone, into something far more disturbing, while in a nearby bedroom, an encounter with one of the girls is poignant and affectionate, if also sad and dispiriting.

As the action spills out into the street, you find yourself in the depot at Bus Áras, where hundreds of people roam around, oblivious to the drama.

For this reason, it is the most memorable segment of the production. As an audience member, you are confused by the anonymity that one feels, habitually, in these non-spaces of public life and the pressing sense of responsibility to aid one of the characters, a trafficked Russian girl trying to escape her captors.

Cleverly, in the show’s final sequence the audience witnesses events from the beginning, but now views it from behind two sheets of glass, as if looking at it through the glaze of memory.

It encapsulates the way repetition and cyclical motifs have been used so powerfully throughout the ‘Monto Cycle’.

Notably, Vardo is more verbal than its predecessors, with perhaps too many characters describing their situation to us.

However, even if it is less pronounced, Vardo retains some of the arresting visual power of the earlier pieces, and on its own terms is a vivid and extremely moving experience.

Padraic Killeen


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