Beginning -Review

Gate Theatre

04/04/19

Photo Ros Kavanagh

Photo: Ros Kavanagh

Something happens after midnight. Perhaps it’s the light from the stars, or maybe the silence in the air, but whatever it is, it brings truth much closer to the surface and people much closer to each other. It’s the early hours, and Laura and Danny are the last two people left after Laura’s housewarming party.

They don’t know each other.

This is where we find ourselves at the start of David Eldridge’s Beginning. Directed by Marc Atkinson, and starring Marty Rea and Eileen Walsh, this production is a compelling story of honesty, loneliness and love.

As Laura moves from playful seduction to laying her heart on the table in front of Danny, and her vulnerability is gradually reciprocated, Eldridge paints a picture of two intensely realistic characters who find themselves making an unprecedented connection. A masterclass in storytelling and characterisation, Eldridge’s script, with its comic back and forth, absorbing monologues, and touching moments of mundane humanity, is brought vividly to the stage by Atkinson, whose direction is clear and precise, but never laboured.

This subtle precision and attention to detail is what makes this production. Rea and Walsh bat the power in the evening’s conversation back and forth with an intent naturalism – drawing the story out of each other, and tying the audience’s hearts to these two lonely souls as Danny and Laura edge closer to each other. In one scene in particular, where the pair begin tidying up the flat, the silence of both as they work, with the tension punctuated by quick glances and clattered plates, speaks volumes. And never before has a fish-finger sandwich said so much.

WTF Beginning

The beautifully theatrical naturalism does not only lie in the direction and performances though. Sarah Bacon’s set and costume design delights in detail –  Laura’s favourite colours are evident as the colour palette of her costume mirrors the paint swatches on her wall, but the rich, muted pinks and blues soon infuse more layers of her character than just her wardrobe choices. The front door, placed upstage centre, poses a constant question to both the characters and audience.

Selina Cartmell’s current programme at The Gate promises love and courage, and this production of Beginning delivers both in its touchingly comic staging of love, loneliness and connection.

The Importance of Being Earnest – Review

15_The_Importance_of_Being_Earnest

Gate Theatre

16/01/16

Although it was first staged just short of 121 years ago, Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, still feels fresh and, well, earnest. Even in reading the text, the vigour with which each character lives their lives is infectious; in performance it becomes a feast of vivacious madcap antics. Earnest fits the style of the Gate theatre perfectly, and Patrick Mason does a superb job with it.

Marty Rea’s acting has always impressed me, but in this production he truly came into his own, revealing perfect comic timing and a flair for face-pulling akin to Danny Kaye. Of the three portrayals of the character of Jack Worthing I have seen, this is the only one that I feel does justice to the character.  The rest of the cast all deliver impressive performances, with every actor pulling their weight.  Particularly notable were Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Lorna Quinn making the perfect duo as Gwendolen and Cecily, bouncing the energy of the two characters back and forth with sharp but easy precision.

From here, I wish to turn to the set, designed by Francis O’Connor. Few sets can capture the tone of a piece and the nuances of the characters that inhabit each setting as well as O’Connor’s does. With a relatively bare pre-set, we have little clue as to how much the set is going to bring to the production (though the addition of an image of Wilde on the back wall was a clever and playful touch!). Soon however, the many surprises of the set are revealed as a whole host of sliding panels and extensions transform into the home of Algernon Moncrieff, with everything a well-to-do dandy could want, through a garden, to the home of Jack, the polar opposite of the foppish Algy.

Wilde himself described Earnest as “exquisitely trivial,” and that was certainly the feeling in the auditorium at the Gate. I regretted wearing eyeliner as tears of laughter streamed down my face; from polite titters to uproarious belly laughs, the room rippled almost constantly with a wave of collective laughter.  This production of The Importance of Being Earnest is a lively, smart and suitably irreverent evening of Wildean wit and frivolity.

The Importance of Being Earnest runs until 6th February 2016.