Removed review: Children on the edge, told with integrity and grit

Dublin Theatre Festival: Fionnuala Kennedy’s play stays true to the experiences of young people in care

REMOVED

Axis, Ballymun
★★★★☆
Adam is in the Northern Ireland care system. His life is a series of apprehensive greetings and inadequate goodbyes to the revolving door of adults who enter and exit his life, each leaving their own mark on his experience.

Basing her script on testimony from children in the Voice of Young People in Care group, Fionnuala Kennedy portrays the sense of loss, shame and inadequacy that young people in the care system feel.

The accounts she has gathered become one fluid experience through Conor O'Donnell's robust performance as Adam. Well directed by Emma Jordan, he stays true to the experience of childhood and never veers outside the production's aims. As with all good theatre created for young people, the adult audience are merely guests in their space. This production knows who its audience is and doesn't overcomplicate its message, which is part of its success.

At one crucial point in the play, the gaze is pushed back on the audience, who must confront their own participation in a society that marginalises the most vulnerable

Although Removed is about the northern care system, it tells some uncomfortable universal truths about who we are willing to leave behind and our collective complicity in allowing this to happen. At one crucial point in the play, the gaze is pushed back on the audience, who must confront their own participation in a society that marginalises the most vulnerable.

Ciaran Bagnall’s set evokes the snippets of Adam’s life that exist as hazy memories. A dynamic audiovisual display projected across a geometric set (which architecturally resonates with Belfast’s Titanic Quarter) situates Adam’s story as existing everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. Conor Mitchell’s sound design augments this surreal landscape of memory.

Although simple in its task and its staging, this production does what it aims to do well: represent the stories of those who don’t often get to be heard and do so with integrity and grit. Once again Axis proves itself to be fertile ground for productions that engage with marginalised experiences and demonstrates the importance of programming challenging work in community spaces.

Runs until Saturday, October 12th, as part of Dublin Theatre Festival