Mon, Feb 27, 2012, 00:00

Project Arts Centre, Dublin

There has long been a safe refuge for adolescents stewing in deep emotion that they can’t articulate. It is called the garage band. Here, provided they are not inconvenienced with the burden of natural talent, they can use feedback, distortion or pounding beats to obliterate the mortifying experience of life as a teenager.

For Jon Fosse, the Norwegian poet of deep silences and muttered meaning, and his translator David Harrower, who has much experience depicting troubled young characters for whom language is rarely an ally, it seems like a natural habitat. The challenge for director Edwina Casey’s production is to find beauty and truth in the austerity measures of Fosse, a writer whose prose could never be described as purple. To wit: “What a place to rehearse,” Rebecca Guinnane’s character, known only as The Girl, tells Manus Halligan’s endearingly gentle character, known only as The Boy. “It’s so cold.” This observation, like many others, is repeated more than once, and suggests that a better title might have been Monochrome.

There is something refreshing, though, in a depiction of adolescence as a province of half-formed thoughts and misfiring communication, particularly when Joss Whedon and Diablo Cody have constructed mainstream fantasies of teenagers who are never lost for words. Instead, we get a recently bereaved guitarist noodling on his guitar in a personal requiem for his grandmother, while a band rehearsal goes nowhere, as though scripted by Beckett in one of his less humorous moods. Without spoiling any intricacies of plot, Boy gets Girl (down to the basement, at least), Boy loses Girl, Boy tussles with Drummer (Moe Dunford) who believes he has some claim to Girl, Boy is liberated from the basement by Girl.

So little happens, in short, that Casey has two options: either fill in the blanks or let them linger within stately reverberation. It requires nerve to do the latter, which she does, and the set design, by Taka, demarcates this “bomb shelter” as a symbolic space, framed between black borders like a widescreen movie, while Zia Holly’s clean, sparse lights encourage us to peer deeper.

It is, of all things, the writing that lets it down, when resigned shrugs (“It’s just like that”; “That’s the way it is”) lead to blurted-out psychosexual revelations: “You’re a slut, just like my mother.” The production won’t conceal those cracks, but it maintains its own self-reflexive composure.

The Boy, gentle but insular, is only passing through here, it recognises, and his angst is as raw and temporary as the venue: it’s only a stage.

Runs until Mar 3