• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 2, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

    DTF – The first reviews are in …

    Laurence Mackin

    The Dublin Theatre Festival is well underway at this stage and it’s already proving thrilling and divisive – we’d expect nothing less.

    B for Baby seems to be an early favourite, and is splitting opinion right down the middle. I’ve heard absolute raves about this show, and a few other reliable sources are still wondering what all the fuss is about. Having intellectual disability at the heart of a play is an ambitious undertaking, but Irish Times critic Peter Crawley reckons that is “rarely seems more than a playwright’s device”. He reckons that it falls between two stools. “The play intends to be more troubling than a reverie, yet it lacks the firm foothold to climb towards its darker implications,” he writes, and “the production leaves us with a lingering unease rather than the definite smack of shock”.

    So is he living in a dreamworld or has he hit the nail on the head? Let us know below.

    There are no such lingering doubts over Circa for Christine Madden, and indeed the audience at the show “gasped, sighed and groaned at the extreme physicality presented to them”, she writes. The physicality and athleticism left her almost speechless. “Acrobats tie themselves in knots on a rope suspended from the ceiling, yet arms ripple like smoke in the wind, reminiscent of the ballerinas’ wings in Swan Lake,” she writes. The show seems to have earned every one of her five stars.

    Over at the Gate Theatre, David Mamet’s Boston Marriage was hoping to work some linguistic magic on the stalls. Ian Kilroy reckons that the “plot seems almost incidental in this dialogue-driven”. He says this isn’t Mamet’s best work but a solid enough production had cast and crew “displaying great ability in breathing life into Mamet’s creations, which they skilfully mine for their inherent comedy”.

    In the Project Cube, things are a little more experimental with 565+ turning theatre into therapy, in a piece about how Marie O’Rourke (who plays herself) cured her lifelong depression by going to the theatre. Sara Keating says: “Ciaran Melia’s striking yellow floor and vivid lighting act as stimulus for O’Rourke’s warm performance, as does the intervention of stage manager Duncan Molloy, whose prompts and cues provide structure to a script that formlessly circles themes of domestic abuse, alcoholism and depression.”

    Keating concludes that: “Documentary theatre always treads a thin line between its true-to-life origins and its transformation into art, and 565+ never quite manages to find the magic that will bring us through that process too.”

    Things are more positive for Peter Crawley, who also took in The Smile Off Your Face. This, he reckons, is “an exquisite experience; a feast for the senses that begins with the soft thrill of motion, ends with a grand revelation, and does, of course, involve some brilliantly freaky stuff”. The audience is blindfolded with hands loosely bound and find themselves in semi-intimate positions with each other. All this is well worth the risk, he reckons, in a show which knows “when to seduce and when to unsettle”.

    The fabulous feast of the senses that is the Dublin Theatre Festival is off to a flyer. You can read full versions of all these reviews here, and let us know what you’ve seen, what you’re hoping to catch, and if our critics have called it like it is below.

    • Sharon McCullim says:

      I think ‘B for Baby’ is by far the most exciting work I have seen on the Irish stage to date. The writing is vivid, intense – incredibly authentic and relevent (which is odd for theatre in my experience) and yet so very rich in theatrical metaphor. I think Crawley was so seduced by the former that he missed the latter. My friends almost didn’t go because of his review, (which seemed to me confused and unreliable, I have to say.) They too were utterly thrilled by the play – and the production directed by Mikel Murfi. The cast, Louis Lovett and Michele Moran, are a true delight. There was a standing ovation the night I went – and apparently this is a nightly event. Quite rightly so. I see this as a landmark piece of theatre from a writer who, as is usual in the case of extraordinary new talent, is well ahead of the critics.

    • Sharon McCullim says:

      ps The need for ‘shock’ tactics is, thankfully, avoided by this play in favour of something far more sophisticated and deeply human…

    • Imelda says:

      I have an adult Down Syndrome son. This play was beautiful. And painful. I am reminded of the line from Yeats ” A terrible beauty is born’.

    • Imelda says:

      I have an adult son with Down’s. I bawled at ‘B for Baby’, my husband laughed. Afterwards we talked – about things we never could talk about until this play. It’s beautiful. A gift. Thank you to the Abbey, to the actors, and to the writer. ‘A terrible beauty is born’.

Search Pursued by a Bear