The New Theatre
When one thinks of Irish myth and folklore on stage, one writer springs immediately to mind, W.B. Yeats. His plays earned their place in Irish theatre history for his lyrical writing, interpretations of the obscure and unexplored in Irish mythology, and reimagining of old well-worn tales. His legacy has evidently lived on and manifests itself in Eamon Carr’s Dusk. Telling the story of Aisling, who meets the ghost of the ancient Irish hero Cúchulain on the eve of her wedding, Dusk explores the real and mythological in Irish history. Carr’s verse writing and theatrical techniques are reminiscent of a number of Yeats ‘ works, with one particular scene in which The Morrígan (a mythological figure likened to the Valkyries of Norse folklore) dances, appearing to pay almost direct homage to At The Hawk’s Well. Drawing direct influence from such a well-known writer who has such an individual writing style is an ambitious decision, but for the most part, Carr takes on the challenge with impressive skill. There are points at which the text begins to lose pace in favour of stylistic writing (though I believe that can often be said of Yeats’ plays too!), but overall it is an engaging and well-crafted story.
Under Denis Conway’s direction, Garrett Lombard delivers an impressive performance as Cúchulain, striking the balance between ethereal and human qualities in the character, and deftly handling the dense text with gravity and intensity. It is his performance of the character that carries the show through its slow paced moments and keeps the audience engaged. There are, however, points at which Caoimhe Mulcahy (Aisling) appears to struggle with speaking in verse, breaking the flow of her character’s emotion. Similarly, the character of the Caretaker, played by Denis Conway, breaks the flow of the piece and slows its pace further, without much tangible benefit.
One of the most impressive scenes is the Morrigan’s dance, choreographed and performed by Justine Doswell. Though a short scene, it encapsulates the ethereal sense of the play effectively and further blurs the hazy lines between the real and mythological setting, and between past and present.
Worthy of mention is Katie Davenport’s set design which is actually composed largely of smoke and mirrors. With candles, a large mirror covering one wall and a dappled cloud pattern painted across it and the other two walls, the ambiguous setting is highlighted and each character’s reality is subtly represented.
Despite flaws in pacing and performance, Dusk is an engaging and interesting production, re-interpreting and challenging of the character of Cúchulain with regard to the mythological Ireland in which he existed and the Ireland which exists outside the theatre.
Dusk runs at The New Theatre until October 15th.