THEATRE

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE -

PETER CRAWLEY ASKINGFORI­T

AbbeyTheat­re,Dublin.Nov9-24 7.30pm(Sat­mat2pm)¤13-¤45 abbeytheat­re.ie In th­ese al­ter­nately dis­tress­ing and gal­vanis­ing days, you have to re­mind your­self that Louise O’Neill’s break­through novel, Ask­ing For It, was in­spired by real events abroad rather than a grim pre­dic­tion of what could hap­pen much closer to home. An ac­count of an 18-year-old girl, Emma O’Dono­van, raped at a house party by the sports stars of her school, and dis­trusted in the fall­out by the di­vided com­mu­nity of her pic­turesque Cork vil­lage, it will have an un­set­tling time­li­ness for as long as rape cul­ture ex­ists. That the town should de­volve into vic­tim-blam­ing in O’Neill’s story is char­ac­ter­is­tic of close-knit tribal guardians. But the com­plex­ity of O’Neill’s fic­tion is to make its vic­tim flawed from the be­gin­ning – dis­loyal, low on self-es­teem, us­ing sex­u­al­ity as power – while also blame­less. It asks us to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence.

Al­ready the in­spi­ra­tion for a tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary and in the process of be­ing adapted for the screen, the book reached the stage ear­lier this year in Cork in an adap­ta­tion by the ter­rific writer Mead­hbh McHugh. How to de­pict such a story, which the book dis­tends through in­di­vid­ual per­spec­tive, drunken black­outs and so­cial-me­dia sham­ing, has been the task of Land­mark and the Every­man Theatre’s co-pro­duc­tion, in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Abbey and Cork Mid­sum­mer Fes­ti­val, and the ex­cel­lent direc­tor Annabelle Comyn. Such ac­counts, we know too well, rarely come with­out con­tro­versy, but given un­canny, dis­com­fit­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties with real life, how can any­one still have dif­fi­culty be­liev­ing them?

THE BY­STANDER

Pro­jec­tArt­sCen­tre,Dublin.Nov9-10 7.30pm¤18-¤20pro­jec­tarts­cen­tre.ie The fate of Kitty Gen­ovese still haunts us. In 1964, the young woman was stabbed, sex­u­ally as­saulted and mur­dered out­side her apart­ment block in New York, re­port­edly in full view of 38 of her neigh­bours, none of whom came to help. That, how­ever, was not en­tirely the case: a muchdis­cussed re­port in the New York Times as­sumed the worst and ac­cen­tu­ated the sen­sa­tion­ally neg­a­tive. The event, none­the­less, in­spired both de­s­pair, soul-search­ing and much study: had so­ci­ety re­ally dis­in­te­grated to such a nadir, or were there mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors? The grue­some, dispir­it­ing event is now the cor­ner­stone of the psy­cho­log­i­cal the­ory of “the by­stander ef­fect”.

That is also the con­cern of this new dance pro­duc­tion from Ire­land’s Junk Ensem­ble, which de­buted at this year’s Dublin Theatre Fes­ti­val and now per­forms at Project Arts Cen­tre. Much of it is in­formed by an an­gry re­sponse to Gen­ovese’s ig­no­min­ious tragedy, with fresh res­o­nance for a time of in­dif­fer­ence and ap­a­thy in the face of hor­rors far-flung and near. “Move­ment is deeply em­bed­ded, jit­tery twitches and gut­tural con­trac­tions that por­tray the con­flict be­tween con­form­ity and in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity,” wrote Irish Times dance critic Michael Seaver in an ap­prov­ing re­view. “So­ci­etal con­form­ity seems to wins out.” Lay­er­ing the Gen­ovese’s story with al­lu­sions to the bleak ex­is­ten­tial­ism of Ca­mus’s The Stranger, while fea­tur­ing notes on cowed be­haviour and per­sonal cul­pa­bil­ity against ur­ban anomie, The By­stander brings to­gether dancers and ac­tors to probe at our re­spon­si­bil­ity to each other.

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