This week at the theatre
This week at the theatre, you find robotic revolutions, a threatened Eden and other unlikely relationships.
Outlying Islands at the Samuel Beckett Theatre
R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots – Peacock Theatre. Previews Aug 21. Opens Aug 22-26. 8pm €16-€25 abbeytheatre.ie – In these days of technological saturation, mysterious algorithms and growing anxiety over human obsolescence, the theatre might strike you as the last refuge of the analogue. But the truth is that the stage predicted the digital revolution early, and with little optimism. In 1920, the Czech writer Karel Capek introduced both the word “robot” and the concept of an artificial intelligence uprising in his play R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. Throw in automaton rights and the destruction of the human race, and you have the entire plot, long before The Terminator franchise, Wall-E and the Flight of the Conchords laid down their own embellishments. Capek’s ideas retain a marvellous freshness, which has endeared them now to Youth Theatre Ireland, staging this darkly prophetic play with director Caitríona McLaughlin.
Outlying Islands Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College Dublin. Previews Aug 10-11, Opens Aug 12–Sep 2, 7.30pm (Sat mat 2.30pm). €20/€17 www.tcd.ie/beckett-theatre – With the world on the brink of a World War in 1939, two young ornithologists are sent to a remote Scottish island to conduct a study for the ministry of defence, which harbours sinister intentions. They find two human inhabitants there: the island’s elderly lease-holder and his 19-year-old niece. On this threatened Eden, passions flare and emotional discovery looms as a fraught love triangle develops between the young men and the woman, anticipating greater ruptures to come as the world is thrown into chaos, old certainties collapse and moral codes need to be built up anew. Staged by Sugarglass Theatre Company, the accomplished and innovative group based between Dublin and New York, and directed by Marc Atkinson, David Greig’s 2002 play is urgent and considered, based on a real history, depicting a microcosm of society at a time of upheaval.
Fred and Alice Viking Theatre, Clontarf. Aug 21-26 8pm. €15 vikingtheatredublin.com – Some relationships shouldn’t work, like the one between Fred and Alice who meet in a psychiatric facility in John Sheehy’s whirling comedy for Call Back. Yet somehow they do. “They said I was great for Fred. I brought him out of himself,” says the hyper-ebullient Alice of her chronically withdrawn companion. “He was good for me too. He pushed me back into myself a bit.” Sensitive to psychological detail and the realities of social care, the play treats these characters with imaginative and escapist theatricality, like a documentary seen in a dream. It also allows Ciarán Bermingham to give a superb and moving performance, portraying a character rather than a condition, while Cora Fenton gives a spirited turn – at one point, even rotating within a music box – within a blur of speech and exposition. It all makes for a charming encounter, led by an encouraging, unconventional melody.