Glue: A dark, unusual, timely play that pulls no punches

Dublin Theatre Festival: Robbie O’Connor’s debut has much to say about the insidious nature of predatory behaviour

GLUE

Axis Ballymun, Dublin
★★★☆☆
Aidan (Robbie O'Connor) has had a few bad days recently. One day he is visited by his estranged friend Dean (John Cronin) in the hospital where he is recovering from a recent incident. This curious reunion sets in motion a series of unexpected revelations that challenge the boundaries of recovery, friendship and power.

O’Connor’s Glue does not always do what you expect it to do. Billed as a tense psychological thriller, this Rough Magic production undoubtedly delivers tension: an unidentified but fascinating conflict is palpable in the men’s friendship. A psychological thriller it is not, however. Although the play draws on common tropes of the genre, some issues with pacing and structure prevent Glue from reaching this level. In short, it rushes its exposition.

This may be intentional, but it disrupts the spell, and the production loses a little bit of its power to surprise its audience. This is not fatal, however, and O’Connor’s sharp writing holds the audience’s attention throughout the second half.

The  power of Cronin's performance is rooted in the transactional nature of Aidan and Dean's pseudo-friendship. Once the truth behind their unusual dynamic becomes clear, the production really comes into its own

Cronin’s performance is particularly strong, its subtlety guiding the audience along this sometimes perplexing journey. The real power of his performance is rooted in the transactional nature of Aidan and Dean’s pseudo-friendship. The audience are invested in learning the truth behind their unusual dynamic. Once this becomes clear, the production really comes into its own.

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The play has much to say about the insidious nature of predatory behaviour. As such, it is a notably timely piece of work that pulls no punches. The forcefulness O’Connor brings to the final scene ensures the play’s ultimate success.

The production is rendered even stronger by accomplished and consistent design. Sarah Jane Shiels’s lighting evokes the tenuous margin between what is real and what is not. Alan Farquharson’s transparent yet functional set provides a multifaceted and changeable space for this battle to unfold within.

This is a dark and unusual play, and an impressive debut by O'Connor. With some further development and dramaturgical support, Glue could pack a fierce and powerful punch.

Runs at Axis Ballymun until Saturday, October 23rd, as part of Dublin Theatre Festival