Efficacy 84 – Review

Samuel Beckett Theatre, TCD

TCD Drama Department Devising Debut Festival



Taking the 1984 Kerry Babies Case, in which the body of a baby was found on Cahirciveen beach, and another buried on a local farm, leading to an investigation that was fraught with issues around Garda conduct and veracity of information, as inspiration, Efficacy 84 is a heartbreaking piece of theatre that examines the society in which such an event could occur. This work, devised by Luke Casserly is an insightful exploration of a personal and public story.

Using effective distancing techniques, including microphones and the blurring between actors and characters, the piece recreates a sense of distance from the people involved, such as Joanne Hayes who was suspected of killing the children. As the piece develops the audience gradually realises the effect of this separation from the characters as people; the investigation clung to Joanne Hayes for so long despite scientific evidence to contradict suspicion against her because investigators saw her as an example rather than a person. She was not just Joanne Hayes; she was a woman caught between the Old and New Ireland, a woman who, for some people, embodied the change that was taking place in the country. It is easy to let injustices slip by when the victim is not recognised as a person, when a connection is not made with them. The framing of the piece, with Casserly joining the cast on stage and directly addressing the audience, combined with highly stylised performance, brings this to life and puts the audience in a position whereby they are engaged in the act of distancing.

The performances are consistently strong, with the actors finding a balance between levity and intensity under Casserly’s direction. Lisa Nally delivers an open, powerful performance as Joanne Hayes, and the entire cast operates as an impressively connected ensemble.

The design of the piece also plays a large part in the distancing discussed earlier, with Sorcha Flanagan’s costume design standing out as a particular example. By dressing the female actors in simple floral dresses and plain brogues and the only male actor, Simon Geaney in a classic shirt and jumper, Flanagan suggests a sense of timelessness of the story – this is based on a story from 1984, but it is just one example of the effects of a long-held mindset in Ireland. Benedict Esdale, as the pianist, is dressed in a luxurious velvet jacket, suggesting the conscious theatricality of the piece.

This combination of many small details makes Efficacy 84 a strong, well-rounded, affecting piece of theatre that confidently involves its audience in its development.


Spandex Blues – Review

Smock Alley


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If you thought sibling rivalry was a problem in your family, you have nothing on E, Dublin’s greatest super-villain, youngest member of Dublin’s greatest superhero family. Written by Diane Crotty and directed by David Doyle, Spandex Blues is the simple but royally entertaining story of E, super-villain and little sister.

Both performers, Diane Crotty as E and Luke Casserly as Henchie, deliver engaging and enthusiastic performances. Crotty brings a great balance to her role, prompting gales of laughter throughout, while still conveying the more serious elements of her story with a touching sincerity. Her fluctuation in tone kept the piece moving apace and never let the energy burn out or flag. The cast also managed audience participation admirably, effectively moving what was a rather nervous audience to a point where they were willing to join Casserly in singing the Mission Impossible theme tune.

The design is simple and, for the most part, effective. The pre-set, with a video of various locations around Dublin city projected onto a white-board and surrounded by planning diagrams immediately framed the setting while also showing that it was not entirely the usual Dublin city. The lighting design has a few minor issues, with too much shadow falling on the actors’ faces at times, though that was also a case of the actors not always finding their light. That is, however, a small complaint about what was, overall a very entertaining piece of theatre.

Spandex Blues will make you both laugh out loud and pause to think, and most of all it will transform your view of the number 16 bus through Drumcondra forever.