Put Out The Light Review
March 31, 2010
There is a tendency in Ireland to hyperbolate when something even slightly deviating from the norm is presented to us. I won’t do Put Out The Light, which is written and directed by Paul Kennedy and anchored by an amiable George Seremba, the disservice of over hyping it. But it was nice, for once, to experience a theatre that lives and deals in the now without wrapping itself in the comforter of the past.
Set in present day Dublin, Put Out The Light is a sometimes humerus, often frustrated look at Kenneth Tamunda’s attempt to adapt to a new way of life foreign to his own culture and to his very being. He seems to have landed on his feet. With a beautiful, liberal girlfriend who exposes him to her glittering, artsy world, he has a pleasant-if menial-job in a local pet store, friends who accept him as one of their own and a delight at immersing himself in the native songs and tongue of his new homeland.
But when a corupt Garda comes a knocking his whole life starts to come apart and, although I found the character of the bent copper a little trite, he allows the playwright to explore some interesting avenues pertaining to race and identity while abstaining from the black and white strokes many other playwrights like to paint the issues of the day in.
For Kenneth is no angel. He is jealous, possessive and not that unbiggoted himself. But he is trying to be a better man, trying to digest the standard trains of behavior but is constantly thwarted by the dirty looks, dirtier comments and a girlfriend who has hoisted herself so far up the lofty pole of liberal self righteousness she has lost all sense of human consideration. He becomes increasingly lost in the confusing and contradictory sexual morals of the western world and is pricked and goaded for losing touch with his true self by an embittered fellow expat. His destiny is never out of his own hands and the true tragedy of Put Out The Light is in the combustive meeting of provocation and pride which leads Tamunda choosing the path of self destruction.
Seremba is an able story teller who with the aid of simple, yet remarkably effective, lighting from Shane Fitzmaurice paints the picture. From the prison cells to the Christmas parties, the Irish wakes to the city streets, his clarity and total self immersion in the part made me loose myself in his story rather than observe it with the conscious knowledge of seeing an actor ply his trade. His characters genial nature shines through but his anger and frustration do too, and when they do they strike an unnerving chord so taken in were we by his naive nature.
Dealing as it does with issues so poorly realised on the Irish stage-race, sexuality, immigration and police corruption- I would have liked to see more of the characters in this piece brought to life in their own right, rather than being referred to in Tamunda’s monologues . It’s a pity that talented voices like Kennedy’s are being restricted to this format as a means of getting their work staged rather than being allowed to fully explore their topics with a fleshed out work that is not limited to recitation.