It’s week two of the Dublin The­atre Fes­ti­val... ...and the men don’t come out of it all that well

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - THEATRE -

Arthur Miller is well served — but James Joyce is not, says Emer O’kelly

Smock Al­ley The­atre rodeo ring. The char­ac­ters are as ef­fec­tively dwarfed as they would be in that re­al­ity.

Roslyn (Aoib­hinn Mcgin­nity), the newly-di­vorced bar dancer who is start­ing on her own road to god knows where, moves from be­ing co-in­ci­den­tal in the lives of the three men, to be­ing their neme­sis. Their tragedy (that word again) is that they be­lieve her to be pe­riph­eral to their lives.

All of them de­sire her, in the most ba­sic mean­ing of the word: Gay (played by Aidan Kelly), the horse trader who sees the moun­tains and Ne­vada desert de­nuded of his stock in trade of wild horses; Guido (Pa­trick Ryan), the age­ing wartime fighter pi­lot who re­turned to a nowdead wife who, in life, he never un­der­stood; and young Perce (Em­met Byrne), the rodeo rider wounded to his core by the death of his fa­ther and a fam­ily be­trayal that left him to live as a derelict.

But all they see in the equally wounded Roslyn is “a fine woman”. She is that ter­ri­ble vic­tim of male li­bido: a cat who like all cats, is grey in the dark. The three men all be­lieve in their need­i­ness that she can ac­com­mo­date them. In­stead, her hu­man­ity strips them of their bravado and leaves them striv­ing un­suc­cess­fully to pre­serve what is left of their souls. Roslyn’s pain re­mains too: but then, she has al­ways known “even when I win I lose in my heart”.

With Una Ka­vanagh giv­ing sup­port as bar­tender Is­abelle, An­nie Ryan and her cast have paid a su­perla­tive homage to the man who more than any other play­wright, por­trayed the sear­ing fail­ure of the Amer­i­can dream. The Mis­fits is dev­as­tat­ing the­atre.

******* Is Glo­ria pa­tient; or is she a pa­tient? Ei­ther way she’s in trou­ble from the start: that’s Gina Mox­ley’s glee­ful take on a piece of what can be called fem­i­nist his­tory or be­trayal of wom­an­hood, whether fem­i­nist or not.

In Cal­i­for­nia in 1964, a woman called Glo­ria, re­cently di­vorced and trou­bled by her con­tin­u­ing fond­ness for sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, agreed to take part in a filmed ex­per­i­ment. She was to be an­a­lysed by three dif­fer­ent ther­a­pists prac­tis­ing their dif­fer­ing pet the­o­ries. All of them had done well fi­nan­cially from those the­o­ries, hav­ing pub­lished widely and be­come dar­lings of the fad that said you’re no­body with­out a ther­a­pist.

And that was Glo­ria’s first mis­take. She didn’t need a ther­a­pist; at least not from what emerged in the ex­ploita­tive film which be­came known as the Glo­ria Films. They had orig­i­nally been called Three Ap­proaches to Psy­chother­apy, and were in­tended for class­room dis­tri­bu­tion to psy­chol­ogy stu­dents. In­stead, they were on gen­eral re­lease to a sex-ob­sessed and pruri­ent pub­lic.

All Glo­ria wanted was a straight an­swer as to how she could main­tain hon­esty with her nine-yearold daugh­ter while still hav­ing a per­fectly le­git­i­mate sex life as a newly sin­gle woman. And early on in her first en­counter she says “give me a di­rect an­swer”.

How naive! That’s not what ther­apy is for; it’s for load­ing you down with a whole lor­ry­load of fur­ther ques­tions which, a cynic might think, is the pur­pose of the ex­er­cise as it keeps the tills ring­ing for the ther­apy in­dus­try.

That, at least is what emerges in Mox­ley’s The Pa­tient Glo­ria, in which she plays (won­der­fully) all three male ther­a­pists, each sep­a­rately de­pen­dent on as­pects of pe­nis ob­ses­sion (his own), at the ex­pense of the hap­less Glo­ria (Liv O’donoghue). It could be 1960s pas­tiche — but Mox­ley brings it thun­der­ing into our own age by in­ter­spers­ing her re­flec­tions on an Ir­ish child­hood and girl­hood un­der the dom­i­na­tion of a pe­nis-con­trolled world of ex­hi­bi­tion­ism, ex­ploita­tion, ig­no­rance, even abuse, all given the mild ti­tle of “pa­ter­nal­ism”.

Sex ed­u­ca­tion, she re­calls, was a book­let called Dear Daugh­ter, heav­ily re­liant on dis­cus­sion of and ref­er­ence to the Vir­gin Mary.

And now, as she is fi­nally com­ing to terms with it all, she’s reached the age of be­com­ing in­vis­i­ble. (Oh no she’s not!) But she ef­fec­tively and skil­fully man­ages to make the Ire­land of the 1980s as much a pro­to­type of male in­sen­si­tiv­ity (oh all right, dom­i­na­tion) as the US of the Six­ties. In­deed, when drunken vi­o­lence and Catholic prud­ish­ness are thrown in, 1960s Cal­i­for­nia with all its nut­ti­ness can sound like par­adise.

With (some­what un­nec­es­sary) mu­si­cal in­ter­ludes from Zoe Ni Rior­dan, Mox­ley and O’donoghue are ex­pertly di­rected by John Mcel­duff in An­drew Clancy’s ef­fec­tive set. The Pa­tient Glo­ria is very funny, very ex­plicit, and also very sober­ing. Mind you, men may find it hard to take; they don’t come out of it all that well!

******* Arthur Rior­dan’s adap­ta­tion of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is faith­ful to the text. Yet its pro­duc­tion by Rough Magic at the Pav­il­ion The­atre in Dun Laoghaire car­ries lit­tle sense (for this critic, no sense) of the orig­i­nal.

It’s seven ac­tors run­ning around the place like head­less chick­ens wear­ing boyfriend jeans and brightly-coloured tops (first half ), boyfriend jeans and denim reefer jack­ets (sec­ond half ) and in­ton­ing their lines rather like a class of re­luc­tant fifth­form­ers shang­hai-ed into Fa­ther O’connor’s act­ing group.

Since the group is largely the same as that which de­liv­ered Shake­speare’s Dream quite mag­nif­i­cently for Lynne Parker, the blame would seem to lie with the di­rec­tor Ro­nan Phe­lan for fail­ing to in­fuse the piece with ei­ther co­her­ence or passion, or even the­atri­cal life.

Nor does the lu­di­crous gim­mick of play­ing pass-the-par­cel with the cast­ing work. Each cast mem­ber in turn plays bits of Stephen Dedalus (donning a green soc­cer jer­sey to do so) while the role of nar­ra­tor and all the other roles also ro­tate be­tween them. And speak­ing of nar­ra­tion, there’s far too much of it for some­thing which is sup­posed to be a play, not a nar­ra­tion of a novel.

Even the fa­mous hell-fire ser­mon which sends Stephen rush­ing to con­fess his sins of the flesh is dreary, as is the leg­endary de­bate on the ex­is­tence of the af­ter­life be­tween Stephen and Cran­ley. There is no sense that the lat­ter is piv­otal in what would be­come Joyce’s life­long philo­soph­i­cal credo. And that takes some do­ing.

And for his fi­nal exit, Stephen aban­dons the old sow (Ire­land) wear­ing a red and green striped silk suit. Why, in heaven’s name?

Worst of all, the pro­duc­tion has no ves­tige of the charm of the orig­i­nal. Not Rough Magic’s finest hour.

‘She is that ter­ri­ble vic­tim of male li­bido — a cat, who like all cats, is grey in the dark...’

Aoib­hinn Mcgin­nity and Aidan Kelly in An­nie Ryan’s stag­ing of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Mis­fits’ at Smock Al­ley

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