Saturday, April 22, 2006

REVIEW: Beckett’s Ghosts (Project, Dublin)

Beckett’s ghosts have been roaming the city day and night in recent weeks, as every venue in the capital (or so it seems) is given over to events marking the centenary of the Irish writer’s birth.

The event is so monolithic, indeed, that it proves impossible to square with a playwright who displayed such a persistent lack of interest in events of civic consequence, and whose dramas are so consistently anti-heroic, so full of unloved souls living invisible lives. The point is reinforced by Bedrock Theatre company’s contribution to the program, an evening of shorter pieces from the author, all one-handers (or one-facers), mostly monologues, mostly arid, stern and visually austere.

First up, Andrew Bennett takes to the stage, alone, with only his head fully lit and only the halo of an old-fashioned oil lamp for company. He has come to tread through A Piece of Monologue, a thirty minutes plus monologue of intricate repetitions and minute details, delivered in a manner that is distant to the point of dismissive of the audience. Next, Ned Dennehy’s floating head appears in Beckett’s That Time). It’s the only thing we get to watch while a tape of another tightly introverted monologue plays. The overall experience is somewhere in the dryer regions of bloodless.

Things pick up a little in the second half, as Amanda Coogan’s version of Breath, the celebrated piece which lasts around half a minute and features a little celticy moan, the sound of a breath and a light coming up and going down on a pile of rubbish (or, in this case, some mannequin carcasses). At least here, the audience felt empowered to laugh, rather than remain cowed into reverent silence.

Things were finally rescued by Deirdre Roycroft’s performance (or, more precisely, the performance of Deirdre Roycroft’s mouth, the only part of the performer visible on the darkened stage) in Not, I. Here, for once, we seemed to be witnessing a living performance, an actor using her skill to communicate, rather than a priest declaiming an atrophied liturgy.

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