Hitting the start button: This week’s theatre highlights

Dublin Will Show You How is a grim portrait of despair; Beginning is a tale of connecting

Marty Rea and Eileen Walsh in Beginning. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

Marty Rea and Eileen Walsh in Beginning. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

 

DUBLIN WILL SHOW YOU HOW
The Complex, Dublin. Ends Sat 13 abbeytheatre.ie

How does a young woman end up living on the streets? How does a young man decide to take his own life? How does very unhappiness befall an abused wife, or a recovering addict, or the youth of an inner-city area? A portrait of isolation, division and deep despair, Dublin Will Show You How provides some very grim answers.

Based on the reports of participants in their Browbeating Project, the Abbey and Complex co-production, written by Tracey Martin, traces cycles of poverty, debt and exploitation, where a sense of abandonment and distrust makes communities become more sclerotic still. Martin presents a range of voices, where actors play multiple roles, and devices from monologues, to verse to a chorus of seagulls. A sustained depiction of victimhood, the show can be wearing, arousing a numb sense of helplessness. Or perhaps the title is a provocation. What is Dublin going to do about it?

BEGINNING
Gate Theatre, Dublin. Ends April 20 gatetheatre.ie

Sinking coquettishly into her sofa, Eileen Walsh’s effervescent Laura gives her last remaining party guest a come-hither look. For some reason, though, Marty Rea’s shy, smiling Danny stays thither. “I’ve got no radar,” he guffaws. In David Eldridge’s excellent play from 2017, which feels like a missed connection happening in real time, you are inclined to believe him.

It says something about director Marc Atkinson’s beautifully measured production for the Gate that while you are not at all sure if these two fun, idiosyncratic and exquisitely lonely souls will fall in love with each other, you are destined to fall in love with them. That owes much to the nano-detail of Walsh and Rea’s marvellous performances, where the ebb and flow of conversation lightly explores the anxieties of our tech-assisted age: “I wish I’d met you online,” he tells her. “Everything would be so much easier.” That’s debatable. Do the devices of our agitated modern age – the online dating, social media, binge-watching Strictly Come Dancing on a player – make it easier to find someone or much harder? Digital or analogue, some prayers never change: Only connect.

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