Straight to Video: Energetic performances and whip-smart writing

Theatre review: Emmet Kirwan’s play builds to an exciting and unexpected climax

STRAIGHT TO VIDEO

Civic Theatre, Tallaght
★★★★☆
Emmet Kirwan's new play is a fantastic feast of comic nostalgia. Set in the surroundings of a video-rental shop (remember those?) in the mid-1990s, Straight to Video follows an eccentric assortment of characters who are coming to terms with the challenges facing their community.

Pitched against a backdrop of anti-drug marches, this portrayal of Tallaght is anything but typical. Kirwan leans away from the expected: rather than turn towards the dark politics of a community left behind in the midst of a drug crisis, he delivers a delightfully bizarre and heady farce that delivers comedy, poignancy and drama.

Phillip McMahon’s astute direction draws out the magic of Kirwan’s characteristically whip-smart writing. The ensemble deliver an energetic and invigorating performance that finds full throttle about 15 minutes in. From here it is a cacophony of relentless entertainment that builds to an exciting and unexpected climax. Colin Campbell, in particular, stands out, delivering a powerful performance that deftly balances comedy and drama.

Grace Smart's set is the first signal that something delightful is about to unfold. Alongside Sinéad McKenna's lighting, Alma Kelliher's sound and Ellen Kirk's costume, it draws the audience deep into this weird and wacky world

The design elements of this production, staged by Landmark, are full of exciting synergies. Grace Smart's set is the first signal that something delightful is about to unfold. Alongside Sinéad McKenna's lighting, Alma Kelliher's sound and Ellen Kirk's costume, it draws the audience deep into this weird and wacky world. The devil is in the detail, and Smart leaves no stone unturned with a set that is sure to deliver a pang of nostalgia to those of us who recall the Friday-evening perusal of the local Xtra-vision aisles.

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Underneath Kirwan's efficient comedy is his familiar examination of social dynamics. These brief but effective forays into complex and timely social issues subtly nod towards contemporary concerns without overpowering the comedic power of the play.

Runs at the Civic Theatre, Tallaght, Dublin, until Saturday, November 6th, then moves to Project Arts Centre, Dublin, from Tuesday, November 9th, to Saturday, December 11th