Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire
On the side of Main Street, in a small town in Co Cork, a group of teenagers have assembled, looking for something to do. Danti Dan (David Rawle) has brought his own entertainment with him – the notebook he uses to count the cars coming to and from the city – but Dolly (Chloe O’Reilly) and Cactus (Venetia Bowe) are at a loose end.
In Gina Moxley’s excoriating portrayal of teenage sexuality in repressed 1970s Ireland, boredom and ignorance are positions ripe with danger. As Danti Dan ties his invisible horse to the monument – the town’s single distinguishing feature – there is a palpable sense that tragedy is lurking behind its giant phallic facade.
Aaron Monaghan’s production for Livin’ Dred avoids nostalgia. Designer Naomi Faughnan eschews overt visual references to the 1970s, with costumes subtle and stylish enough to offer a contemporary feel, and a broken phone box that might be an upcycled Tidy Towns project evoking times gone by. The soundtrack, which draws from late-1960s rock’n’roll, adds vim and energy rather than sentimentality, and the solid colours of lighting designer Suzie Cummins’s square sky backdrops illuminate scenes with cool clarity rather than emotion.
Bowe is a spirited, spiky Cactus, her slight physicality adding vulnerability to the character’s pluck. As sisters Dolly and Ber, Chloe O’Reilly and Meadhbh Maxwell offer a study in contrasts, while Rawle’s Danti Dan brings a joyful innocence to counterpoint the searching maturity of his peers.
Moxley’s play, meanwhile, remains as shocking as it was when it first premiered, in 1995, with its uncompromising representation of teenage sexuality. The issue of consent, in particular, still feels fresh and disturbing, especially given the atypical gender representation of the themes: there are human impulses that transcend time.
Touring to Mullingar Arts Centre, Tuesday, February 7th; Everyman Theatre, Cork, Wednesday, February 8th, and Thursday, February 9th; Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, Saturday, February 11th; Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co Kildare, Tuesday, February 14th; An Grianán, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Friday, February 17th; and Backstage Theatre, Longford, Saturday, February 18th