Moving the furniture around: This week’s theatre highlights

Sonya Kelly’s wonderfully funny Furniture on tour; John Connors considers Ireland’s Call

FURNITURE
Siamsa Tíre, Tralee Mar 29-30; Glór, Ennis, Co Clare Apr 2-3 8pm €21-€26 (Tour continues until May 4, including Galway, Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Cavan, Longford, Kilkenny, Wexford and Cork) druid.ie

Sonya Kelly’s terrifically funny play for Druid, now conducting a national tour, begins with an unseen minister’s encomium for classic furniture, which has “transcended their humble utilitarian purpose” to become artworks. This is at once a serious observation and a perfectly absurd joke: Some chairs are now too important to sit on. The irony and insight of Kelly’s comedy is similarly well balanced, across three thematically connected short plays, in which people relate more easily to things than each other.

You see it in the reverent husband and tactile wife, fretting over the possibility she will set off the museum's alarm. It's there in the second play, an arch send-up of passion and consumerism where the pristine Stef, in a surge of passion, invites Dee to live in her minimalist home, to discover she is a lubricious hoarder. "I don't match your furniture," Dee realises with a shock. Lastly, a flamboyant older gay man bequeaths a pink chaise longue of some renown to his blokey nephew: "Barbra Streisand sat on it. Rudolph Nureyev sat on it . . . Judy Garland passed out on it." But their exchange, through friction and accord, brings us the play's credo. "Furniture is not sentimental," the older man reasons. "You can love it, but it won't remember who you are." Like Oscar Wilde's famous wallpaper, some furnishings will outlast us, Kelly recognises. The least we can do is put them to good use.

IRELAND'S CALL
Viking Theatre, Clontarf. Ends Mar 30 8pm €15 vikingtheatredublin.com

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Following its debut as part of Show in a Bag at the Dublin Fringe Festival, John Connors’ monologue performance comes with a sharp indictment of contemporary society, as seen through the eyes of three young men growing up in Coolock. Centred on James, who tries to escape his impoverished circumstances and troubled family background, Connors examines class, religion and the Irish psyche – no small order for a solo performance.

What shapes these young men, as they gravitate towards a life of crime, is a yearning for either escape or numbness: consuming hefty quantities of substances, pursuing indulgent holidays, unwise relationships and, inexorably, drug-dealing. As coping mechanisms for underlying pain, these are hardly ideal, but the play’s real anger is for a system that allows such degradations and disproportionately punishes the vulnerable. These days, that rage could be a national anthem, and certainly one more sonorous than the chorus we are invited to sing at rugby matches, which Connors’ character would gladly kick to touch.