Sunder review: In the eye of the Moore Street storm

Anu’s latest performance traces a legacy of violence against civilians, from Moore Street barricades to modern-day terrorism. Will you choose death or glory?

Venue: Moore Street

Date Reviewed: April 20th, 2016

Website: https://www.dublintheatrefestival.com/Online/Sunder

Phone: 016778899

Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 14:31

   

Sunder

Moore Street, Dublin (starts at Ilac Centre Library)

****

Here we are again, in the centre of Dublin, looking for trouble. One of the most rewarding and brilliantly disorienting propositions of any show from Anu Productions is not to discover a performance hidden in the city, but to recognise the performance of the city itself. From a viewing point in the Ilac Centre, you may spot several people who seem too overtly theatrical to be real, before they drift innocently by, and finally an actor engages us. “This could be great,” he says, impassioned, thin, barely more than a boy. “Death or glory, yeah?” We have our orders.

Sunder, the first of Anu’s planned triptych of productions for commemoration of the Rising, begins with a revolution’s earliest shiver, an event that may be a disruption in history or just a public nuisance. Wisely, though, rather than encourage us to identify with the leaders of the Rising, director Louise Lowe leads us away from the bullet-pocked monuments into the aftermath on the streets.

A voice on a mobile phone guides you towards Moore Street, to where the rebels fled after escaping the GPO, and the carnage becomes vivid with descriptions of the flames and debris, the wounded and dead: “You can’t see them, but they’re there.”

Folding such uneasy remnants of the past into an oblivious present requires a sophisticated manoeuvre, here vividly achieved, while deftly availing of contemporary ironies. That scrawny kid was Sean McLoughlin (a superbly wired Craig Connolly), who, as it says on his T-shirt, is the Commandant General of the Irish Republic. When we meet him again, on the point of surrender, it is over prawn crackers in an Asian buffet, the current occupants of one of the rebels’ headquarters on the street.

Without labouring the point, Sunder traces that fault line between history and oblivion. In the eye of the storm, staring at defeat, the rebels have no idea how they will be remembered. It also traces a legacy of violence affecting civilians, stretching from Moore Street families shredded by bullets to the detonations of terrorism decades later.

Some of this is conveyed at unsettlingly close quarters by Alexandra Conlon, in a Moore Street building given a darkly surreal transformation by Owen Boss’s installations, Ciaran Bagnall’s lights and Carl Kennedy’s sound design. Here we get eye-to-eye confessions from Dubliners caught up in the chaos, hear desperate prayers so intimate you can feel the breath of the past fresh on your face.

It is an immediate piece, rather than a reflective one, conspiring to create again a sense of unrest and uncertainty, where participants know nothing will be the same again but that anything can happen. In Anu’s artful weaving together of then and now, it is hard to be certain of anything and the idea of the nation is still unfinished business.

Until May 7th