White Rabbit, Red Rabbit
New Theatre ****
‘FROM NOW on, we are all present,” says the actor onstage, but the words belong to Nassim Soleimanpour, a conscientious objector forbidden from leaving Iran. Instead, a different performer speaks for the playwright for each show, following an unrehearsed script. Here, it was the effortlessly charismatic Stephen Rea, but through direct address, good-humoured audience involvement, comic allegory and philosophical provocation, Soleimanpour is the more conspicuous figure. It helps that Rea, despite his fame, is an actor who can disappear – and that he does a good ostrich impression.
Writing in isolation, Soleimanpour uses his imagination as a political tool, traversing his restrictions, describing Iranian censure and implicating his text – including a playful fable about a disruptive rabbit – to make blunt points about authoritarian control and group conformity. (These are blunter still when he later explains them.) A more complicated gesture asks us to finally forget the security of a theatre and believe in a much darker manipulation, which our audience vocally resisted. That seemed a positive response to the involving power of Soleimanpour’s experiment.
Whether it worked or not, you had to be there.
Until September 22ndFarm
Meet at the Lir ****
The audience for WillFredd Theatre’s captivating promenade piece is not so much led through a transformed urban space as herded together towards a rural idyll. We peer into a pen of city property dealers as livestock gathers around them, first through playful suggestion, then in riveting full flesh. What follows is a gleefully eccentric documentary, based on interviews, in which a farmer may discuss breeding cycles and global milk yields while devouring an entire Swiss roll, cow birth is described straight from the heifer’s mouth, or a bee keeper leads us into a doo wop cabaret to explain the cruel succession of queens.
With one striking exception – a physical sequence embodying rural depression – farming life comes off as a wholesome fantasy of honest work, social cohesion and shy speakers (John B Keane or John McGahern might interject), rather than the more complex roots of Irish society.
Director Sophie Motley’s methods trump the message, though, with a constantly inventive, affectionate and beautifully performed production. On the Fringe, it’s outstanding in its field. Peter Crawley
Bewley’s Café Theatre ***
“I wish I could tell a simple story,” says Danni, as she ties the threads of her ragged testimony together at the end of Gavin Kostick’s play Black Wednesday. There is a best friend and first lover. A wheelchair-bound sister. A dabble with drugs and dealing. The suggestion of a greater crime. Dee Burke is an earnest and energetic Danni, piecing together the complexities of relationships going slowly wrong. However, director Dan Colley gets her to move boxes rather needlessly throughout the 50-minute show, and the forced physicality distracts rather than enhances her solo performance.
This is urban drama in its most conventional form – the monologue – and while Kostick’s script is rich in detail and pathos, Black Wednesday lacks the urgency of the best single-voiced one-person shows. It is a good story, well-told, yes. But why tell it, why perform it, now? Sara Keating
Until September 21st
Tonight Everything’s Going to Change
Filmbase Basement **
The bowels of the Filmbase building provide an appropriate venue for Adam O’Keefe’s Tonight Everything’s Going to Change. The opening is as cryptic as a Pinter play, with each new arrival dropping oblique clues as they too try to figure out why Trish has invited them to celebrate their last day at work. Or, as they repeatedly toast it, freedom.
Seven characters are squeezed into the 90-minute performance, reducing personage to personality, as laboured backstories are stuck on to lightly-sketched relationships. Knowing nods to the play’s soap-operatic elements only compound the confusion, leaving us unsure whether the play is designed to be silly or serious: is this a heist fantasy or a parable of contemporary events? Reacting to the melodramatic bombshell that Trish eventually drops, Katie remarks: “but this is coming out of a void. It doesn’t seem real.” And that is exactly the problem. Sara Keating
Until September 20thPayback!
Bewley’s Café Theatre ***
On the face of it, this is a comic two-hander about the invisibility of middle-aged women. In the hands of writer-performers Marion O’Dwyer and Maria McDermottroe, appealing, experienced performers with great comic timing, it becomes something more than that, a well-paced exploration of revenge that is of our time.
Being invisible gives two friends, in different worlds, the opportunity to wreak a sweet and satisfying revenge in Ireland’s post-boom society. This Show in a Bag production, directed by Iseult Golden (with Fringe, Irish Theatre Institute and Fishamble involvement, and dramaturg Gavin Kostick) meets the two women in a warehouse, mysteriously preparing for a trip and on the cusp of payback. The plot neatly encapsulates micro and macro injustices; the notion of fairness, in personal life and business, is central. Neatly structured and with lots of funny lines, it’s an amusing,
righteously angry hour. If only it were true; in real life, the perpetrators of injustice are still at large. Deirdre Falvey
Until September 20th