The New Theatre
Note: This is a review of a preview performance.
“Sure that’s what you’re up against.”
Telling the story of a family living through the death of their mother, Laoisa Sexton’s The Last Days of Cleopatra is heartbreaking and hopeful, bringing the audience into the lives of Jackey, Natalie, and their father, Harry, as they face the slow death of Jackey and Natalie’s mother, and make their way through difficulty, difference and hurt
Directed by Alan King, this production tackles sensitive and difficult topics with a blend of humour and care. The combination of King’s direction and Sexton’s writing makes this a powerfully real engagement between characters and audience; the focus is clearly on the development of each character throughout. The interlocking lives of the family members overlap and intersect, sometimes comfortably, sometimes in more challenging ways, but always with an insightful exploration of the context and consequences of various events and interactions. Through recurrent motifs in the dialogue, a sense of painful repetition is created, suggesting an almost inescapable cycle of difficulty for the family. However, this is finely developed and if one looks, one can find the gaps in the cycle, the chances for hope.
This is impressively performed by cast Gerard Adlum, Ger Carey, Ruaidhri Conroy and Laoisa Sexton, who all convey the depth and humanity of their characters with skill. Particularly note-worthy was Sexton’s performance as Natalie; when Natalie expressed an emotion, the audience had little choice but to join her in it. These strong performances are enhanced by Eamon Fox’s effective and evocative lighting design which provides impressive depth to a small stage.
The Last Days of Cleopatra is an excellent production that unflinchingly looks into the highs and lows of a struggling family, and in doing so brings the audience and characters on a journey that reflects the best and worst we can be and challenges any settling or stagnation of our outlook on life.
The Last Days of Cleopatra runs until April 1st at The New Theatre, Temple Bar.