Monday, October 16, 2006

REVIEW: Everyday (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin)

Have you see this man? You’re bound to remember if you have. Strange fright wig, face painted all over in white, maniac grin carved out in shades of blue and red?

The Corn Exchange theatre company theatre company’s latest production in the trademark style – a hybrid of commedia del’arte, steeped in Chicago improv -- is set in a contemporary city rather like Dublin, and features a set of urban nomads who might just turn out to be me and you, and everyone we know.

There’s the abandoned starter wife of the successful property developer, drunk in city centre hotel: hasn’t she noticed she’s surplus to requirements? Get a load of the Bowie-loving muso who forgot to learn to play an instrument. He really should know better than to start teaching Lolita to his uncomprehending TEFL class. Look out for the Aussie office bitch terrorising her simpering staff: she’ll do the same for you if you come across her, four sheets to the wind in a snazzy bar. And – a word to the wise -- beware that new mother: there’s cocaine in the breast milk around here.

This fine set of characters roam the stage, sometimes performing little solos, sometimes miming in silhouette, sometimes stumbling across each other as they go about their business, in a series of short, sweetly interlocking scenes. At times, it can call to mind the Fast Show, or indeed Little Britain, with sadly human characters only partially obscured by the grotesque comic ticks and monstrous makeup.

Everyday is not, all the same, as deeply rewarding as some of the company’s previous shows. The contemporary setting accounts for part of this. For the first time since Carshow, the dramas, little triumphs and abject failures are rooted in a world around us, something that ends up grounding the excitement a little. Perhaps the grotesques are simply a little more familiar than is useful: after all, the gap between Rosaleen Lenihan or Twink at their worst and these cartoon exaggerations is not all that large.

All the same, performances from the ensemble cast (Corn Exchange first timers Derbhle Crotty, Louise Lewis and Simon Rice, along with old hands and true believers, Andrews Bennett, Janet Moran, Mark O’Halloran and Tom Murphy) are crisp and inventive, by turns poignant and very funny. And unfair as it is to single anyone out, O’Halloran’s big, head-to-toe performance may leave you with an grin on your face that just won’t wash off.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mark O'Halloran fills Dublin with Lamplight

“I’m middle class and I’m a middle class culchie at that -- the worst sort of middle class person,” says Mark O’Halloran in partial explanation of how he came to write the script for the Dublin junkie film, Adam and Paul. Being a middle class culchie, it seems, has some distinct benefits.

“I’m from Ennis,” says O’Halloran “so when I came to Dublin I saw something different from Dubliners, they almost couldn’t see the junkies on the streets, whereas I would notice them. We didn’t have junkies in Ennis…”

The actor has already two further scriptwriting commissions underway (both for Adam and Paul director, Lenny Abrahamson) but now O’Halloran is taking the time to work once more with perhaps Ireland’s most innovative theatre companies, Corn Exchange. The subject, however, remains rather similar: Dublin lowlife, although this time the ne’er-do-wells are from 1904.

Dublin by Lamplight, which chronicles the efforts of an imaginary theatre company to stage a play in turn of the century Dublin, has, according to O’Halloran, its fair share of scangers. The capital was, according to O’Halloran, still a location of a grubbiness familiar to those who have seen Adam and Paul. And them some.

O’Halloran plays a fading English actor in the piece, but some other opening available at the time were, apparently, even less desirable. “We came across some really odd jobs when we are researching Dublin at the time, like the Dung Dodgers, whose job was literally to shovel shit from the tenements.”

Part of Corn Exchange’s raison d’etre has long been the workshops the company ran for actors, inculcating local performers in the traditions of company director, Annie Ryan’s native Chicago.

The techniques Ryan brings into play include everything from improvisation, to an updated version of the version of the Italian commedia del’arte technique, complete with garish whiteface make-up, live music and an interesting habit of turning and staring hard out into the crowd when delivering a speech. The technique can be decidedly unnerving for anyone sitting in the auditorium but, according to O’Halloran, has a very significant effect.

“Those stares out at the audience when you are speaking are extremely cinematic,” says O’Halloran of the show’s style. “They are the closest you’ll come in theatre to a close up.”

Labels: ,