Mean­while, on the out­skirts of Ban­sha...

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - THEATRE -

Bew­ley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Vik­ing Theatre Clon­tarf, Dublin

IT wouldn’t be Oc­to­ber with­out a spooky play in at least one theatre in the cap­i­tal city. And this year the play is Wringer, by Stew­art Roche, and the theatre is Bew­ley’s.

And Roche man­ages to tick a lot of boxes with a lot more than com­pe­tence; Wringer ends nicely un­re­solved, which helps it to re­main in your head; as its sto­ry­line un­folds a sharp edge of top­i­cal­ity emerges; and you can be­lieve in both the char­ac­ters and the sit­u­a­tion. Not bad at all for a piece heav­ily in­flu­enced by Ham­mer Hor­ror which, how­ever en­ter­tain­ing it was, sel­dom man­aged a lot of cred­i­bil­ity.

Elsa is a blog­ger, mostly on the topic of hor­ror movies. She has ar­rived late “in the mid­dle of nowhere” (some­where out­side Ban­sha, Co Tip­per­ary) to in­ter­view ex hor­ror movie star Jonathan Raven­cliffe in his im­pres­sively suit­able coun­try house run im­pec­ca­bly by his house­keeper/ sec­re­tary Mrs New­man.

The in­ter­view starts pre­dictably enough, with Elsa daz­zled to be in the pres­ence of some­one who ap­pears to be her idol. And there’s a lot of com­i­cally pre­dictable fore­play with im­pres­sively vin­tage wine and sin­is­ter ref­er­ences to pieces miss­ing from the past of smooth Mr Raven­cliffe.

But then Roche gets real: the play posits a truly sin­is­ter el­e­ment with a very real hor­ror with which we are sadly all too fa­mil­iar: the abuse of power by fa­mous peo­ple and their preda­tory sex­ual ma­nip­u­la­tion of (usu­ally very young) women, and some­times, sick­en­ingly, chil­dren. This is nasty stuff, very well con­structed, and given a very good level of dis­gust and fear as well as panic and the drive to self-preser­va­tion by those with un­pleas­ant pasts, par­tic­u­larly in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness.

The line-up and pro­duc­tion val­ues are im­pres­sive — with Maeve Fitzger­ald as Elsa, the neme­sis of the piece who un­cov­ers more than she bar­gains for; Michael James Ford as the ever-so-but not-quite smooth Jonathan Raven­cliffe; and Joan Sheehy as the stub­bornly loyal Mrs New­man.

They’re splen­didly di­rected by Aoife Spil­lane-hicks, who co-pro­duces with Roche. Naomi Faugh­nan’s set is most im­pres­sive given the space lim­i­ta­tions, and it’s lit by Colm Ma­her, while sound is de­signed by Mark Hen­drick.

Wringer is a Hal­loween good ’un.

******* It all sounds very easy, and not too up­set­ting. That’s the prob­lem with And Thank You, Sea­mus O’rourke’s new one-man play, a Big Guerilla (sic) pro­duc­tion at the Vik­ing Theatre in Clon­tarf. One sus­pects it may have been writ­ten for a full cast as so many char­ac­ters (in both senses of the word) are brought into it, but none­the­less it works on cer­tain lev­els as a mono­logue.

It’s about al­co­holism, faith and re­demp­tion. Heavy stuff. The “faith” bit comes from the first nar­ra­tor, a self-styled preacher from a Trav­eller fam­ily who feels “called” when he ar­rives in a small Ir­ish town. He senses the pain and the need.

For the rest, we have the O’sul­li­van fam­ily: father “king”, named be­cause he’s king of the pub, and sons Larry O and Martin, who run the fam­ily gen­eral store. The al­co­holic King is a bit un­gra­cious and surly, but never hits any­one, doesn’t deny

Ham­mer’s House of Hor­ror is brought up to date in a new play, writes Emer O’kelly

Wringer ‘The play posits a truly sin­is­ter el­e­ment with a very real hor­ror with which we are sadly all too fa­mil­iar’

his wife, and doesn’t wreck the busi­ness (in fact he’s the driv­ing force). And the lame Martin is quite happy when brother Larry O gets the girl he fan­cies him­self.

So it doesn’t re­ally come across that there’s all that much need for re­demp­tion, which also hap­pens with sur­pris­ingly sud­den ease: one act of ma­li­cious un­kind­ness by the old man sets him on the path to right­eous­ness and re­newed con­tent­ment in mar­riage. And the Trav­eller preacher cel­e­brates the mar­riage be­tween Larry O and his Teresa. But even when Martin runs over and kills her Pomera­nian puppy (by ac­ci­dent, of course, no nas­ti­ness in­volved) there isn’t much sign of an­guish.

It’s all a bit su­per­fi­cial; it’s also very, very old-fash­ioned (al­though in a harm­less kind of way) and O’rourke does a com­pe­tent job un­der Charles Mcguin­ness’s di­rec­tion.

Above, Joan Sheehy, Maeve Fitzger­ald, and Michael J Ford in ‘Wringer’; and right, Sea­mus O’rourke in his one-han­der ‘And Thank You’

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