THE DEAD WOMAN’S SON by Rua O’Donnachu.
Smock Alley Theatre, 7 Lower Exchange Street, County Dublin.To 1 December.
8 pm. Runs 80 mins, no interval.
Tickets: 00 3531 677 0014 www.smockalley.com
Review: Michael Paye 27 November 2012.
Eerie, disturbing, engaging production.
As we enter Smock Alley’s basement theatre, a sense of anticipation is stoked via the ushers in white coats who solemnly lead us. A heaviness pervades the air as we walk down the gangway, an intoxicating aroma of incense, perhaps, only to find our seats covered with a white sheet. We are ushered to the stage space as a young man (Rua O’Donnachu) leads a captive young woman (Andrea Cleary) down the same gangway, whistling. After a rather rushed and forced conversation between the two, the production begins to find its feet.
At first, it almost seems like this could be a knockoff of so many serial killer Hollywood churn outs from the 1990s and beyond. But quickly, after taking our seats, the show progresses at a frightening pace, crammed full of ballerinas, masked strangers and forensic detectives coming in and out of focus, making for a disturbing and intriguing spectacle. The space of the stage represents an unstable memory bank and personal hell for the man before us, and the difference between memory, reality and subjective terror becomes skewed. Indeed, in one scenario, a group of doctors, who refer to the young man before us as “Boy” – there are no names, only interpolations – display the hollow logic of mental profiling and their complicity in patient distress through bamboozling conversation, inaccessible and terrifying.
The overall cast is strong, with Matthew O’Brien’s assured presence particularly notable. Andrea Cleary’s performance of victim is a little contrived, though it does seem that the script can be programmatic in this regard. O’Donnachu, the lost young man, trapped in the purgatory of his own soul, crowded by guilt, desire and self-loathing is engaging and energetic. However, at times the overall performance swims in its own vagueness, particularly during Cleary and O’Donnachu’s kidnapper-victim sessions.
There is an uncanny sense of familiar hollowness throughout, thanks to the broken mirrors placed around Fionn Mc Shane’s excellent stage set, along with the startling lighting. Equally, the sound effects, ranging from knocking, dripping, wind, and Vivaldi, maintain the eerie atmosphere.
Maylin Productions bring some interesting motifs to the table, and even though the script could be leaner, the physicality of the performance, the irreal atmosphere and the pastiche of a mentally unhinged mind give this new play much to recommend it.
Director: Michael Mc Cabe
Lighting: John Crudden
Sound: David Donohoe
Set: Fionn Mc Shane
Production manager: Martin Cahill