THE CRITIC and the Dublin Theatre Festival

Thoughts on the Dublin Theatre Festival, featuring (among others)
THE CRITIC by Richard Brinsley Sheridan;The Culture Box, 12 East Essex Street, Temple Bar. To 13 October 2013;Runs 1hr 30 mins, no interval. Tickets: 

Review Feature: Michael Paye 10 October 2013.

The Critic as a much-needed Critique

I have only seen four shows at this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival: Gare St Lazare Player’s version of WAITING FOR GODOT at the Gaiety Theatre, which is well-intentioned but far too comedy-oriented; Corn Exchange’s DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS at Smock Alley Theatre which, although having a few striking moments and motifs, including an arresting meal between brothers devoid of dialogue and much else unmentioned, alongside excellent acting, is decidedly flat; while Mundo Perfeito’s THREE FINGERS BELOW THE KNEE at the Project Arts Centre has a certain edge to it, as we watch censorship in the making onstage in front of us, but it all seems a little desperate by the final curtain as concepts of politics and theatre are shoved in your face. Though by no means a bad play, “LOOK HOW POLITICAL THEATRE IS” may have been a more apt title. This is not to say that theatre is not political in itself, and certainly Portugal’s attitude to theatre during the Salazar dictatorship is an interesting topic, but the desire to prove this to the audience becomes tiresome very quickly.

And that is where Rough Magic’s THE CRITIC comes in. It has something all three of those shows lack: energy, experimentation, and multiple messages (one of the most important being that theatre doesn’t necessarily need a message, particularly if that message is about how inherent politics or social revolution are to theatre). Making a farce of a farce, the play moves swiftly from the cosy confines of THE CULTURE BOX to THE ARK in Temple Bar, led by three young ladies speaking Irish fluently, with our possibly tongue in cheek meta-narrator, the Interpreter, telling us how “brilliant” it is that they are mentioning Yeats and CATHLINE NI HOULIHAN.

Yeats is a different era from Sheridan, by the way – in fact, centuries run fluidly and rapidly throughout the whole adaptation, so explanations are often forthcoming. Like all good guides, therefore, our Interpreter coddles us with information given with a disarming intelligence and open demeanor which can become a little overbearing despite how extraordinarily likable he is, so it is fitting that he leads us to the ARK, a children’s arts and cultural centre. We follow our Interpreter past some protestors who are quite certain that theatre is political and need you to know it, to what appears to be a modern-day drama class rehearsing Puff’s great new play, “The Spanish Armada.” Unaware that his new creation is an utter farce in itself, Rough Magic’s rough treatment tear it down into stooge-driven insanity while a camera cuts between Mr Dangle to Mr Sneer looking on in occasional disbelief, generally sniggering as Mr Puff mouths along with his character’s lines with passion and belief etched on his face, broadcast on the wall behind the players.

At the risk of being accused of puffing, I can honestly say that the cast are excellent, and particular mention must go to Mr. Daly, whose portrayal of the Interpreter is incisive, while Mr. Shiels plays Mr. Puff with a devilish (what can only be described as) Dublinesque (not to be confused with Dublinese – Sheridan’s language is maintained) roguery, foregrounded to excellent effect. The ARK drama-room made for an engaging space as Puff, Sneer and Dangle spent most of the performance in the “Gods” above us, watching on with a student videoing their expressions. It was extremely well carried and utterly hilarious, dragging towards the end as it all does become a bit too much.

Overall, therefore, I have not seen as much of the festival as I would want, but from what I have seen, I may have discovered where all the energy and self-awareness went which seemed so lacking in those other productions mentioned above. Rough Magic took and expelled them in a slightly psychotic outpouring, and it was extremely refreshing.

Peter Daly: The Interpreter
Darragh Kelly: Dangle
Eleanor Methven: Mrs Dangle
Rosa Bowden: Servant
Ronan Leahy: Sneer
Rory Nolan: Sir Fretful Plagiary
Eilís Carey: Woman from 1798
Karl Shiels: Puff
Fionnuala Gygax, Megan O’Flynn, Louise O’Meara: Women from 1845
Hannah Colgan, Doireann Garrihy, Carys Wright: Women from 1897
Francine Darby: Woman from 1916
Lauren Cardiff, Ellen Cloney, Kate Finegan: Women from 1989
Elijah Rowen: 1st Sentinel, Thames Attendant
Luke McQuillan: 2nd Sentinel, Thames Attendant
Matthew Malone: Sir Christopher Hatton
Peter Corboy: Sir Walter Raleigh
Michael-David McKernan: Earl of Leicester
Wesley O’Duinn: Governor, Master of the Horse
Dave Rowan: Knight
Breffni Holahan: Tilburina
Gina Burke: Confidante
Shane O’Regan: Whiskerandos
Patrick Culhane: Justice
Fionn Foley: Constable
India Mullen: Justice’s Lady
Barry O’Connell: Son
Stephen O’Leary: Beefeater
Clara Harte: 1st Niece
Marnie McCleane-Fay: 2nd Niece

Director: Lynne Parker
Costume Designer and Stage Designer: Bláithín Sheerin
Lighting Designer: Sarah Jane Shiels
Composer and Sound Designer: Carl Kennedy
Video Designer: Mark Cantan
Assistant Director: Rosemary McKenna
Assistant Designer: Kate Moylan
Production Manager: Rob Furey
Stage Director: Justin Murphy
Stage Manager: Stephanie Ryan
Technical Managers: Mick Kelly, Eoin Winning
Lir Academy Placement: Aaron Kennedy
Hair and Make-up: Val Sherlock
Wardrobe Supervisor: Mary Sheehan
Costume Maker: Nadia Rawy
Producers: Diego Fasciati, Clare Robertson

2013-10-14 12:44:09

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