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.


Cascando – Review

Pan Pan Theatre

Beckett Theatre


cascando pic

When I think of the words “radio play,” it is generally in conjunction with an image of the listener pottering around the kitchen, or perhaps curled up in a chair. This is evidently not the same for Pan Pan’s Gavin Quinn, who’s installation of Beckett’s Cascando is an unsettling, absorbing and intriguing journey through a reflective maze, both in terms of set and text.

First broadcast in October 1963, Cascando is a play for music and voice that circles around and overlaps itself in a short but potent exploration of sound, silence, language, identity, journey and storytelling. As the audience walks around Aedín Cosgrove’s labyrinthine, mirrored set, clothed in long hooded robes listening to the play through headphones, there is an odd combination of connectedness and isolation, playing with the disjointed flow of the text between Voice and Music. With only a few lights around the labyrinth, one’s eyes never quite adjust to the darkness, just as one can never quite adjust to the text. Just as Voice seems settled, the Opener calls a halt, and introduces the discordant and intense Music. This constant cycling and overlapping of Voice and Music, like the changing levels of light, means the listener is always alert, awake to both change and repetition.

Walking around the space, moving slowly towards a centre circle, catching glimpses of people through walls, with reflections and reality blurred, this is a truly immersive experience. As the audience slowly makes its way through the darkness, pausing at corners, unsure what is mirror and what is open space, cautious of bumping into each other, changing pace with the light and the text, one truly experiences the vacillating, uncertain journey of Woburn in this deeply immersive, yet personal and detached installation of Beckett’s Cascando.

(Not) Belonging – Review

This is Happening Collective

Samuel Beckett Theatre

Tiger Dublin Fringe



Devised and performed by Matthew O’Dwyer, Áine O’Hara and Sorcha Flanagan, (Not) Belonging is a deeply personal exploration of what it means to be a young person finding your feet in the world. Often funny, often serious, this production will strike a chord in some way with everyone who has worked to find their place in life.

The piece opens with each performer introducing themselves, setting the personal and open tone for the rest of the piece. Through a variety of performance styles each performer’s unique but connected experience of finding a place to belong is brought to life. The collective work brilliantly together, feeding each other’s energy in performing; it is obvious that this show was very much a collaborative effort with a balance of each voice shining through.

Deserving of a particular mention is the set, designed by Gemma McGuinness. With a main set piece which I can best describe as a versatile book of backdrops, the set was simple and innovative, providing a setting perfectly suited to the style of the performances. The only glitch in the design of the performance is the projection work. Though it is a good idea, and parts of it worked, because of the surface it was projected onto much of it was lost and I found myself being distracted from the performances by trying to work out what the images were. This is however, a minor issue that could be easily resolved. Overall the stage design was simple, well-planned and effective.

(Not) Belonging is an interesting and impressive piece of work from this emerging Dublin theatre collective. Shows about young people and teenagers can often stray into the territory of distanced patronisation but this piece certainly does not. Written from the hearts of the collective, written for their personal exploration of their experiences, written to connect with people who feel or have felt the same way as they do, (Not) Belonging is an engaging piece brimming with the vitality and drive of its creators.