Firedoor Theatre Company
Players Theatre, Trinity College Dublin
Written by Sheena Lambert and directed by David Fleming, Focus is a short, one act play which aims to examine “the predjudices of modern Irish society, and the hypocrisies that underly how we relate to religion, class, abortion, and each other.” However, in trying to cover such a lot of issues in under an hour, Focus overstretches itself and unravels.
Set around a focus group hastily cobbled together from family and friends, this play uses the questions posed to the group to frame its discussion of various issues in Irish society. It is a good basic idea, but through a combination of stilted dialogue and tenuous links between each topic of conversation, it quickly becomes a race to get as many issues covered in a short space of time, at the expense of a cohesive storyline. There are many promising moments throughout, with the initial amusing allusions to Suds’ involvement in the drugs trade, the introduction of a criminal investigation and the running bickering between the sisters over how their parents’ house should be kept, but these all peter out and are lost as issues are shoehorned into the dialogue.
It is the lack of cohesion that really pulls this piece down, the actors may have been good, but the dialogue between them lacks the flow and substance necessary to carry the play. This is particularly evident in the introduction of the topic of abortion when, in a pause in the conversation following a discussion of the role of the Catholic Church in peoples’ lives, Paul loudly announces that he thinks they were right in their stance on abortion. There is no prompt for this beyond a lingering lull in the conversation, but it is so pointedly dropped into the conversation that one can almost see the scene title flash up in front of your eyes.
Overall this piece has the feeling of an SPHE class drama, a piece of theatre crudely wrapped around issues that the group wishes to discuss with little thought given to dramatic structure and plot.