Briseis After The Black – Review

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

Tiger Dublin Fringe

The New Theatre



An adaptation of an adaptation of a play, in which a different actor with no prior rehearsal plays one of the leading characters each night, sounds like a recipe for a convoluted shambles of a production. Briseis After the Black proves this assumption wrong. With dexterity and energy, Coburn Gray conjures the production from just a few props and prompts as he stands on stage with his fellow actor.

Briseis After the Black tells the story of playwright Maria Black telling the story of Briseis and Achilles. Briseis, a character created as motivation for Achilles, then allowed to simply vanish from the Iliad with no further explanation, serves as a starting point for an exploration of literature’s tendency towards using female characters as plot devices then killing them off once they have served their purpose. Using multiple layers of storytelling, this production raises question after question, not always resolving them, but not always needing to. Is Maria Black simply being used as one of the characters she so hated? Is she one of the characters? Which story is more important to this production, that of Briseis or Black? From the inclusion of an actor that knows as little about the piece as the audience, to the switching between stories and Coburn Gray’s suggestion of action but persistent inaction, Briseis After the Black is a play that thrives on ambiguity and trusts its audience to understand.

This script that almost has a life of its own is excellently executed by Coburn Gray as he guides the volunteer actor (Zoe Ellen Reardon last night) through the play. From witty comments to self-aware lines in which he tells us where he changed the script and reminds us “I like to pause here, but I haven’t forgotten my line,” he works with an earnest and genuine performance style that engages and entertains throughout.

Briseis After the Black is an insightful, provocative and entertaining post-dramatic exercise in ambiguity that leads an exploration into the telling of myths, the treatment of women in literature and life, and how hard it is to separate a work from its creator.


BlackCatfishMusketeer – Review

Originally published on The Reviews Hub

The Lir

Tiger Dublin Fringe



We interact differently to how we did just a couple of decades ago; the internet has changed how we get to know people,  it has changed how we communicate. BlackCatfishMusketeer is a show about this, about people getting to know each other online, however, it is no “tsk young folks and their smart phones” show. This production explores how two people communicate when they have nothing but their words to commend themselves to each other, how they connect, how they show off, and how they get to know each other.

Man (Ste Murray) and Woman (Catherine Russell) chat about starfish, IT, past relationships, and a great deal about the problem of induction. While the discussions can, at times, be somewhat cold, alienating the characters from the audience, they also raise intriguing questions and ideas. The addition of the character of IT (Aoife Spratt), personifying the medium through which the characters are speaking, goes some way towards mediating and mitigating the effects of the distance created between the characters and the audience. Ever sharp and electric, IT builds the setting of the online chat as well as providing entertaining and engaging commentary with dry humour and wit. They almost seem a more human character, breaking the fourth wall and delighting in the unexpected and incongruous. Even though the other two characters are on stage acting out their story, it is almost as though IT is the one recounting the story, taking props out of boxes, steering the direction of the piece and seizing the stage to have the final word.

Molly O’Cathain’s set takes this sense of carefully building a conversation with someone online and manifests it in a collection of boxes and images of filing cabinets. Playing with levels and versatile props, her design plays a similar role to IT, breaking a sense of realism and reminding the audience of the limitations and possibilities of the medium through which Man and Woman are communicating.

Though it does at times lose itself in dense blocks of detached dialogue, BlackCatfishMusketeer is an intriguing and thought-provoking production that is not afraid to ask and answer difficult questions while having a lot of fun along the way.