This is a room . . . review: The contemporary fear of not having a home

A sprawling devised drama from Dublin Youth Theatre uses a large cast and vivid vignettes to illustrate timeless themes

The  mantras of the homeless desperately asking for money act as a  kind of Greek chorus. Photograph:  Aoife Herrity

The mantras of the homeless desperately asking for money act as a kind of Greek chorus. Photograph: Aoife Herrity

 

Project Arts Centre Cube

★★★

The set for this devised work from Dublin Youth Theatre may be sparse – just a few stools – but this is no austere minimalist drama. Rather, at times it seems like all human life is jostling for space on the stage, and that’s not just because it has to accommodate more than 20 actors.

That this translates into an entertaining drama with something approaching a unified theme is a tribute to for the verve and imagination of the young cast, as well as the sure hand of director Veronica Coburn.

Co-written by Dylan Coburn Gray and the cast, this is a room… uses that circumscribed interior space as the starting point for a series of scenes – shards, really – that provide a glimpse of the lives contained therein. We see a single working mother encouraging her daughter in a living room, two brothers sharing a bedroom as their lives start to diverge, a young woman anxiously imagining what might unfold in her first apartment, a teenager surveying the kitchen where her parents fight. These vignettes are punctuated with more impressionistic sequences, such as the fractured mantras of the homeless desperately asking for money.

The latter refrain is a kind of Greek chorus, touching on the central anxiety underpinning the kaleidoscopic action: the very contemporary fear of not having a home, or losing one, as illustrated by the bittersweet relationship detailed in one bravura sequence. But this theme never overwhelms proceedings, as the stories also trade on a more timeless idea: the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty that come with growing up.

As is inevitable in such a sprawling work, some scenes work better than others, and a climactic party somehow falls flat. Similarly, the performances range from the naturally strong to the gamely hard-working, but this only adds to the panoramic ambience, and no one lacks commitment. There is some room for improvement, but it’s a vibrant and inspiring piece.

 Runs until October 1st