May 28, 2010
A moments disclosure. This can in no way be seen as an unbiased review. I live with a member of the cast and one of the characters is
based on an influential figure from my childhood. So, now that I have armed you with your grain of salt, on with the show.
Even if this piece had been poorly performed, even if had been shabbily assembled, writer/director Tracy Ryan deserves a standing
ovation all on her own for having the gumption to put on a piece that required 20 actors.In an age when new artists are
congealing around the monologue format she got up of her arse and put together this terrific ensemble drama that incorporates music,
movement and imagery with little money but great heart.
Strike is the touching true story of the Dunne’s stores anti apartheid strike of the mid 1980s, which follows the young strikers, all aged
between 18-24, from ignorance to infamy, good times through bad, loosing friends, houses but never faith before eventually changing the
face of world politics.
As director she keeps things moving at brisk and visually alluring pace, capitalising on the humorous and emotional elements of the story and
insuring that her inexperienced cast commit to the enormity of the tale. Some of the movement may have been a little ambitious given the
shows length the but the tension and desperation of what the strikers went through is felt by the audience when the cast turn and address us
Catriona Lynch as shop steward Karen Guirean, Crissy O Donovan as sweet but snappy Alma and Melisa Nolan as Vonnie are stand outs among
the strikers, a calm amongst the chaos, while Uche Gabriel Akujobi does well in a part that brings home the reasons for the strike and it’s sincere importance.
It does have its problems. Like any show about industrial action the script is filled with frustration and fury which was to often over played, shouting and roaring with exaggerated exasperation. Many of the actors playing multiple parts were too similar in their various roles ( look to cast mate Elaine Reddy for how it’s done- her air steward, shopper and mother were hilarious, heartbreaking and wholly different from one another) and while I understand the decision to turn some of the smaller characters into caricature it might have been more effective to have toned them down a little.
But these are minor quibbles in what was an entertaining and energizing nights theatre. Using the past to reflect the present is hardly an original concept but at least here it doesn’t drip with sanctimonious self-regard. If more writers showed as much courage and belief in their work as Ryan showed in hers then perhaps a trip to the theatre wouldn’t be so rarely rewarding.