Firedoor Theatre Company
Players Theatre, Trinity College Dublin
Written by Sheena Lambert and directed by David Fleming, Focus is a short, one act play which aims to examine “the predjudices of modern Irish society, and the hypocrisies that underly how we relate to religion, class, abortion, and each other.” However, in trying to cover such a lot of issues in under an hour, Focus overstretches itself and unravels.
Set around a focus group hastily cobbled together from family and friends, this play uses the questions posed to the group to frame its discussion of various issues in Irish society. It is a good basic idea, but through a combination of stilted dialogue and tenuous links between each topic of conversation, it quickly becomes a race to get as many issues covered in a short space of time, at the expense of a cohesive storyline. There are many promising moments throughout, with the initial amusing allusions to Suds’ involvement in the drugs trade, the introduction of a criminal investigation and the running bickering between the sisters over how their parents’ house should be kept, but these all peter out and are lost as issues are shoehorned into the dialogue.
It is the lack of cohesion that really pulls this piece down, the actors may have been good, but the dialogue between them lacks the flow and substance necessary to carry the play. This is particularly evident in the introduction of the topic of abortion when, in a pause in the conversation following a discussion of the role of the Catholic Church in peoples’ lives, Paul loudly announces that he thinks they were right in their stance on abortion. There is no prompt for this beyond a lingering lull in the conversation, but it is so pointedly dropped into the conversation that one can almost see the scene title flash up in front of your eyes.
Overall this piece has the feeling of an SPHE class drama, a piece of theatre crudely wrapped around issues that the group wishes to discuss with little thought given to dramatic structure and plot.
Some Yank’s Theatre Company
Players Theatre, Trinity College Dublin
1st July 2015
A dodgy New York accent is a make-or-break; it can have me cringing throughout a production and drag a good play down and make a bad one truly painful. This wasn’t the case with this production of In Arabia We’d All Be Kings directed by Liam Hallahan. It is testament to the quality of the piece that within minutes I had forgotten my annoyance upon hearing questionable American accents and was caught in this emotional melting-pot of a play.
I can’t decide how to describe this piece; the combination of harrowing tales and poignant humour makes this play teeter along the hazy, delicate line between tragedy and laughter. There is such desolation in the city landscape of torn and patched relationships, of crime, of crack, of sex bought and sold, of love, of violence, and of community around this one little bar. But permeating this fog are moments of humour and hope. It seems like a piece that couldn’t be laughed at, but perhaps it is just this that makes the humour in it so powerful. The audience’s release of a belly-laugh, or burst of rueful laughter brought a realistic edge to the piece that kept it well away from becoming a soap-operatic melodramatic misery-fest. Guirgis’ writing captures the balance of real life and all of its mixtures of light and dark with skill and perspicacity throughout.
This writing is brought to life with passion and skill by the entire cast, with every performer taking their place in a strong ensemble. The fluctuations in the tone and levels of tension in the writing were captured in every character, bringing the stories sharply and vividly to life. Alongside this, the design, was simple and versatile, with some aspects of the lighting design by Ciaran Gallagher standing out as particularly effective, especially towards the end of the piece.
In Arabia We’d All Be Kings is a moving, gritty and tragically funny piece of theatre. The team involved in creating this production need not venture to Arabia because for the two hours or so that their work occupies the stage, they are most definitely Kings.
Running until 11th July