Drinking, flirting and fighting as reality TV gets a script
The Glass Mask Theatre, which is now firmly established in the Bestseller Café on Dawson Street, is developing a brash house style that may well broaden the theatre’s young audience: that much-vaunted under-35 demographic so loved by marketing executives. . The venue serves food and drink, and the layout is cabaret-style. A frenzied theatrical tempo works well here. The volume must be mounted!
Aisling O’Mara’s new play tackles the world of reality TV with vigor. Chris, played by O’Mara herself, is an eight-year veteran of Roll to one side, a Big Brother-style Irish show featuring a group of influencers living together in a house in Dublin. Under the glare of reality TV, Chris developed a relationship with Johnny (Daniel Monaghan) that ended in a public breakup and murky accusations. The play is set in the offices of a television company, as researcher Anna (Eimear Mullen Frew) prepares material for a talk show. Chris, who has been living incognito for two years in the countryside, is considering a return to public life.
There are rowdy images from the reality TV show projected onto the cafe wall: lots of drinking, flirting and fighting. Some of the sound in these video pieces was difficult to capture in the difficult acoustic space, but we had enough material for meaning and the occasional laugh. All three live performances are good and big, filling the room. O’Mara brings a lot of sensitive depth to the larger than life Chris. Monaghan generates a strong sense of a bumpy, confused masculinity as Johnny. Mullen Frew’s extravagant performance as a devious researcher pays off in spectacular fashion. The whole razzle dazzle is done by Thommas Kane Byrne aka TKB with a lot of punch.
As is often the danger with satire, O’Mara’s script feels uncomfortably like an homage at times. There’s a glaring inconsistency at the base: a seasoned reality TV star would never let a research meeting be recorded on camera, which is the root of what’s going on here.
During the early flowering of reality television, it was often said that the format would replace scripted dramas on television. This energetic piece can be seen as a literary response. Reality TV may be having its moment for now, but a clever playwright can always have the last laugh.
A glimpse into the mind of the British soldier
One Para at the New Theatre, Dublin until February 19
War is dirty business, especially in Gerard Humphreys’ new play. Scarriff (a vulnerable Ethan Dillon) is a young English soldier who reluctantly takes part in the Bloody Sunday massacre of 13 civilians in the Bogside in Derry.
Video of the day
Struck by the barbarity of events and the immorality of dissimulation, he deserts. He joins the Irish army, hiding his origins. The play opens in 1974, when Scarriff’s Irish superiors discovered his history with the Paras. It looks back to the events of 1972, then to the Warrenpoint ambush in 1979 when 18 British soldiers were massacred by the IRA.
This is a historical morality game with the culpability of the British army in its sights. Hutton, the flintlock sergeant in charge of Scarriff’s unit on Bloody Sunday, is played with brutal conviction by Andrew Kenny. With this character, Humphreys attempts to capture the mindset of the British military in Ireland and he identifies Hutton’s colonial training in Suez and Kenya as the key to his biased barbarian attitudes.
Anthony Fox directs with blazing sincerity, delivering engaging performances at every level. However, the piece is a fairly blunt instrument, and leaves little to the imagination. But it does give a glimpse inside the mind of a certain type of brutalized colonial soldier, thrown into Northern Ireland and tasked with sorting it all out.