Fringe Theatre Reviews - Quietly – Traverse Theatre – Four stars / Grounded – Traverse Theatre – four stars / Fight Night – Traverse Theatre – four stars / Have I No Mouth – Traverse Theatre – four stars
Two men seek closure in a late night Belfast bar in Quietly, Owen McCafferty's
new play presented by Dublin's Abbey Theatre in Jimmy Fay's firecracker of a production. Robert the Polish bar-man is watching the Poland/Northern Ireland match when Jimmy arrives, full of pent-up rage and gallows humour. When Ian arrives, things threaten to explode into violence, but quickly subside as the pair attempt to purge themselves of what happened almost forty years earlier, when sectarian violence in Belfast was at its bloody height. What follows is, as Jimmy observes, a more intimate and less formal take on a truth and reconciliation committee, as the pair unravel the history that binds them. It's a devastating little power play that sums up a battle-scarred nation's collective psyche in miniature, with the football game on television pointing to pointing up the lingering tribalism even more. Fay's production, played out in a working bar-room, is blessed by a trio of performances from Robert Zawadzki as Robert, Declan Conlon as Ian and especially Patrick O'Kane as a simmering Jimmy. It's a tense and intense affair, with the play's final powerful moments fully bringing home how echoes of the past remain, no matter how hard you shut them out. How do you be a wife, a mother and a hot-shot fighter pilot? The answer in Grounded, George Brant's play presented by the Gate Theatre is that you don't. Or at least that's the case for the vivacious Pilot played by Lucy Ellinson, who makes her dream come true while navigating a life as supercharged as the F16 fighter plane she flies. In no time at all she's married and pregnant, and, no longer allowed to fly, is shipped out to Las Vegas where she operates remote-controlled drones in the Middle East. Juggling family life with a little girl who adores pink ponies with the daily grind, driving fast in the desert is no replacement for the blue skies she craves, and crash and burn is inevitable. Ellinson delivers her interior monologue from inside a gauze-draped cube in Christopher Haydon's production, sporting her beloved flight suit to the last in a work that says much about military misogyny, and how institutions like the army, and indeed the nuclear family, can rip the soul out of good patriots like the Pilot. Ellinson gives a bravura turn as the Pilot in a high-concept production that explodes with sound and vision in a quietly political piece of work. Be careful what you vote for. You might just get the make-believe democracy you don't want. In Fight Night, Belgian auteurs Ontroerend Goed's latest inquiry into human behaviour, here in co-production with Australia's The Border Project, politics is reduced to a gladiatorial arena, as the audience are asked to vote for one of five candidates to lead them into, well, who knows? Split into a series of rounds, the audience are asked a series of questions which are then collated electronically before the results are announced. At first its easy enough, as the five parade around the 'ring' without speaking, meaning the first vote is done on looks and first impressions alone. Once each starts laying out their manifestos, however, which range from the hard-line radical to unrepentantly reactionary with some woolly liberalism thrown, the results look very different indeed. The fact that each elimination is guided by the audience is the telling thing, however, in a fascinating deconstruction of democracy, as alliances and coalitions are formed in order for one or another candidate to survive. In the end, and as the final image of data shows, it is us who are in control,with all our prejudices absorbed and thrown back at us. As revolutions go, however, it's the Smiths song that plays as the audience leave at the end of the show that's most telling about what is required. Twelve years ago, Feilidm Cannon's father died after a misdiagnosis led to botched surgery. His immediate response was to make an art video based around placing a Guinness pint glass in various locations. More than a decade on, and now one of the directors of the Dublin-based brokentalkers company, Cannon shows the film at the start of Have I No Mouth, his very personal response to loss, grieving and healing. So personal is it, in fact, that both his mother, Ann Cannon, and their therapist, Erich Keller, are on stage with him to share in the experience. If this sounds like self-indulgent death tourism, think again, because, over it's hour-long duration, Cannon and co serve up a witty and intimate meditation that honours Cannon's father even as it mourns him. Emotional totems are laid out, balloons are burst, cuddles are given and Guinness is drunk, in a touchingly frank affair in which Cannon's anger at the sheer unnecessaryness of his father's death may come through. This is crucially over-ridden, however, by the sheer love Cannon and his mother feel for him. By the end of this movingly impressionistic homage, it's become a celebration of a man who really might just live forever.
The Herald, August 7th 2013