True West by Sam Shepard.
Smock Alley Theatre, 7 Lower Exchange Street, County Dublin. To 1st September.
7.30 pm. Saturday matinee at 2.30 pm.
Runs 120 mins, one interval.
Tickets: 00 3531 677 0014 www.smockalley.com
Review: Michael Paye 21 August 2012.
Thrilling performance by exciting young company.
When Sam Shepard arrived in New York in 1963, he wished to escape his dysfunctional family life, the affect of which would provide much material for his “family plays” of the 1970s and early ‘80s. True West is one such work, focusing on the dialectic between modern ethical values and capitalism, as two brothers collide in their quests for fulfilment, with the spectre of their alcoholic father never far away.
Austin is working on a film project, staying in his mother’s house while she holidays in Alaska. He is interrupted by the sudden arrival of his estranged brother, Lee, who comes back from the desert to confront the world. He has plans for himself but lacks his brother’s college education and sycophantic know-how, making it clear to Austin that “There’s other people got ideas too ya know.”
Jamie O’Neill, who plays Austin, is wonderfully nervous and jittery throughout the early stages of his performance. His later change from appeaser to usurped, bitter drunk is seamlessly achieved. Equally, Cillian O Gairbhí dominates the room in the character of Lee with a strong physical presence, all the more intimidating alongside his weak brother. He paces the kitchen, looking for provocation, unwilling to abandon his rage at the falseness of modern society.
The stage set is excellent, a wonderful time-warp of 1950s consumerism enveloping the kitchen, complete with tacky wallpaper, vintage refrigerator, and linoleum flooring. You could be forgiven for confusing the year. Indeed, Lee and Austin’s mother excitedly tells her sons that Picasso is in town, to which Austin responds, “Picasso’s dead, mom.” The modern world is therefore shown to be built on a lack of self-awareness in favour of the fashionable attractions available to the average consumer. Austin explains such a phenomenon best when he screams, “There’s nothing real down here, Lee.”
When Austin hides under the table, manically collecting the toast which Lee has smashed onto the floor, we realise that the absurd is a fact of life, that the sheer destruction across the stage, the broken crockery, typewriter, spilled drinks, and miscellaneous toasters, is exactly how consumerism, ambition, jealousy and brotherhood are wholly incompatible states, held in an uneasy balance which is destined to explode violently.
Ramblinman Theatre Company brings a refreshing vitality to this play.
Lee: Cillian O Gairbhí.
Austin: Jamie O’Neill.
Saul: Roger Gregg.
Mother: Susan Slott.
Director: Genevieve Hulme Beaman.
Assistant Director: Jamie Hallahan.
Stage Manager: Tara Conlon.
Producer: Clíona Dukes.