The best theatre shows this week: First Fortnight festival

Festival promoting mental health awareness returns with performances of comedy, audience interaction and survival

The Friday Night Effect, by Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan,  will be performed as part of First Fortnight festival. Photograph: Hildegard Ryan

The Friday Night Effect, by Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan, will be performed as part of First Fortnight festival. Photograph: Hildegard Ryan

 

Lunatic, There I Go

Civic Theatre, Tallaght. Ends Jan 6 8.15pm €15/€12 firstfortnight.ie

In 1944, a 19-year-old woman named Hanna Greally was admitted to St Loman’s psychiatric hospital in Mullingar for what was euphemistically understood to be “a rest”. In her early adulthood, she had experienced a nervous breakdown, and following the death of her father her mother decided that Hanna should be sent to “the big house”. Instead of a brief convalescence, Greally spent almost 20 years there, long after all signs of recovery, because after her mother died, no relatives applied for her release. How Greally survived such a confinement, not alone in the history of Irish psychiatry as an “unclaimed patient”, became the subject of her memoir Bird’s Nest Soup which made her a cause célèbre in the 1970s. Now writer Gill McCaw has adapted her story for a solo stage work, performed by Andrea Scott, combining images, music, text and movement to depict Hanna’s inner world, a source of succour during her journey through abandonment and survival.

The Egg is a Lonely Hunter

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin. Jan 8-13 8pm €15/€12 firstfortnight.ie

A young shop worker called Sophie has an irrational fear of eggs. To make matters worse, her nipples are behaving strangely, and a black hole has appeared in her neighbourhood (which she suspects is probably a pervert) and perhaps worst of all, one of her favourite socks has gone missing. So begins the predicament of this surreal tale from up-and-coming comedian Hannah Mamalis, debuted last autumn at the Dublin Fringe Festival; a one-woman show that imagines an absurd town and meditates on the odd and obscure phenomena in our lives. Sophie’s ruminations are guided by precocious eight-year-olds, prophetic animals and accidental discoveries, blurring her dreams with reality, and the production’s participation in the First Fortnight festival suggests this is not always a comforting confusion. Directed by the trail-blazing Jeda de Brí, it becomes a free-associating mystery story about finding a path through neurosis.

The Friday Night Effect

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin. Jan 9-13 7.30pm €15/€12 (Sat 2.30pm) firstfortnight.ie

Debuted last year in Edinburgh and a success at the Fringe, Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan’s play for their company, Sunday’s Child, is a choose-your-own adventure performance of audience interaction, guiding three Dublin flatmates through a fateful night in the city. That one of them, Collette (played by O’Connor), will not survive the night is no spoiler; instead the journey is the story and our choices come with consequences. Collette has a bipolar disorder, which the performance treats with both sensitivity and irreverence, and the show too is designed to move along unpredictable energies, between a night of various intoxicants, angry eruptions and relationship breakdowns through episodic scenes of action, debate and recollection. Revived for the First Fortnight festival, the show asks for a radical act of empathy: to put yourself in their place and say, honestly, what you would do.

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