Review: Tiny Plays for Ireland 2

If you don’t like it, another play will be along in two minutes


Tiny Plays For Ireland 2
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Even tiny plays can have big ideas. This, the second instalment in Fishamble’s experiment in nano-theatre, floods the stage with 25 four-minute plays, some commissioned from familiar writers, many chosen through public competition in The Irish Times. A few offer realistic snapshots. Others impart stabs of satire. Some attempt to render whole lifetimes in miniature. The production’s challenge, then, is to present them as a cohesive experience or run the risk of an inoffensive but uneven miscellany.

The opening piece, Mark Cantan ’s Somewhere , is encouraging, offering a kaleidoscope of teasing ironies and reported details while gently anticipating the scope of the evening. Somewhere in Ireland, our five excellent cast members tell us, “two biologists touch eating holes . . . An actuary considers the statistical unlikelihood of her birth and promptly dies”. Any of these would make great commissions, but the writers worked independently so the production’s efforts involve more sequencing than curation.

Such seclusion could explain why so many of the writers see the national theme as one of disconnection. Liz Quinn ’s Sanctuary begins with two apparent strangers but reveals an anguished separation; the internal monologues of Maeve Binchy ’s Soul Mates (which might have been better served without voiceovers) follow two people failing to communicate; and Joan Ryan ’s Isolation , buffeted by automated messages and instructions, overstates the depersonalisation of technology. That becomes a pitch-black joke in Kevin Gildea ’s The Phone Records (which doesn’t quite come off), while Conor Hanratty reiterates then shrewdly reverses the idea in the online-dating sketch Ground Meat .

Inevitably there are as many missteps as there are brave experiments, and Federico Storni’s Weekend Abroad is actually both, losing the satirical nerve of its outrageous Swiss stereotypes and explaining the joke, while other obligatory vignettes involving abortion or teenage suicide haven’t been budged beyond cliche.

There’s a similar erratic nature to a production that must deal with one challenge at a time. Director Jim Culleton imaginatively uses Sabine Dargent’s gangway set to represent a drowning man and his rescuers for Tanya Wilson ’s Grand Canal Dock , but audience interaction seems less certain during Pauline McGlynn’s dishevelled healthcare send-up, The Caring, Ireland 2013 .

Throughout, the cast demonstrates a sublime versatility, where the marvellous Steve Blount and Don Wycherley’s performances in Brendan Griffin ’s Naked Photographs of My Mother tread a fine line between absolute sympathy and outright comedy. (The same goes for Val Sherlock ’s impressive array of wigs.)

Tellingly, a number of writers funnel whole lifetimes into their brief wordcounts, such as Richie O’Sullivan’s commendably nonverbal Ode to Life or Mike Finn ’s cleverly metronomic Life in 2 Syllables , and it thickens the sense of a writing exercise on display. This sequel may have taken the virtues of brevity as far (or near) as they can go, but such economy lets us see the world in a grain of sand.
Until March 30th