Thursday, June 16, 2005

REVIEW: A Cry from Heaven, The Abbey

Ancient Irish myth is given a distinctly Greek overhaul in Vincent Woods’ A Cry from Heaven, a version of the Deirdre saga with Pimp My Ride style tricking up applied liberally to the story’s ancient chassis.

French director, Oliver Py and his designer Pierre-Andre Weitz, have worked with Woods on the production, giving the show a forceful visual style, overwhelmingly black and white, with rare touches of “sudden” red and gold.

The style, which seems to own a deal to Patrice Chereau’s celebrated post-industrial Phedre, is gloomy in the extreme, and, at its worst, rather adolescent in its gothy self-seriousness.

Certainly, the story of Deirdre and the war and death that results from her dalliance with Naoise, is a tragic tale, but in Wood’s version, there is not a glimmer of lightness or humour, just a relentless (and unduly protracted) shuffling towards its sad conclusion.

The cast respond to the bleakness with a succession of glowering performances, some steady and admirable, such as Denis Coway’s dependable stirrer, Fergus, others rather confused and unfocussed, such as Ciaran Taylor’s Conor, who seemed sometimes to be channelling the spirit of Dylan Moran.

There are bright flashes of power in Wood’s writing, but often the words feel half-buried in the dark fuzz of this production. The ending in particular – full of thwarted climaxes – cries out for more decisive, clearer handling.

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