Love in Dublin@The Focus Theatre

March 12, 2011

The Focus Theatre kicked off its 2011 season last week with Fire & Ice’s Love in Dublin, two independent monologues that looked at the bleaker side of romance through the eyes of two differing characters. Both working class, both scarred by their beloved’s actions and both refusing to see what was blatantly in front of them, they differed in age and in sex but suffered the same, from a need to maintain or attain the status quo.

The first part, titled Be My Love In The Rain, was initially performed by Linda Teehan this summer in the Powerscourt Shopping Centre and followed a care free young woman called Janet as she descended from your average working class washerwoman (earning her g’s in the Laundromat) to a wannabe-gangster’s moll, battling her fella’s manic depression, her critical cohorts and coping with the finality of death as writer Paul Kennedy took her first love and put it through the wringer.

It’s nicely set up by the writer with the early scenes of first glances, spurned advances and general nights on the piss making Janet a familiar body, someone we could all relate to. The casual racism, innocent ignorance and put upon spirit made her actions all the more credible when her heart ran away with her. We emphasize with her panic when her fella, Michael, refuses to run for her heard; we can accept that she could get caught up in his hair brained schemes in the way she does and the sudden swings and surges brought about by his depression is subtly handled, creeping in here and there but not scent marking the plot.

But there is a lack of atmosphere in the staging. Directed by the author it makes little use of light and sound relying too heavily on the actress to set each scene. A particularly wasteful choice as music was provided (and promoted) by up-and-coming experimental Irish folk duo, Cocophone, at the start of each act and during the exhibition taking place in the same building, with artwork based on the writing. The lack of sound scape made the whole piece seem hollow, even if it was compensated by Lisa Krugel’s eye-catching if ornate set and the actress seemed particularly uncomfortable during transitional stages.

Teehan still hasn’t settled into the part and although she brought a certain charm to the role of Janet, much of what was laudable in July was missing on opening night. Her shifts from telling the story to actually taking part in it were not as clear, you didn’t get the sense that she was hitting upon a thought at the same time she expressed it while her accent was too one note. There’s more to the Dublin dialect than dragging ones vowels out like a comb through knotted hair with matching gesticulation.

Michael Bate’s is much more comfortable as Matt in the accompanying monologue Down By The River. There is no hanky panky going on for his middle-aged bus driver whose wife, Suzy, is looking for change after loosing her job. She finds it by taking a course down the community centre befriending “Juicy Jessica”, an Aussie lush who nailed the bass player from Metallica in her youth. She introduces Suzy to Ireland’s art community (having once nailed one of its emerging talents). Despite initially accompanying the ladies on the lash, he soon finds himself left at home and,  the mind being the terrible thing that it is,  starts to ponder if his wife and Jessica are “Lezzers”.

Bates is a confident performer and he manages to pull of the differing characters so that they were easily distinguishable and almost present in the action. This confidence could be the reason that the performance is an ineffective snapshot of a man torn apart by grief and paranoia. It’s more theatrical than thoughtful and can border on smug.

On both pieces Kennedy proves he has a keen eye and ear, the language and imagery he uses captures your senses and brings his stories to life in the hands of the actors. Unfortunately Love in Dublin shows none of the social sensibility displayed in last years Put Out The Light and although engaging and often entertaining, it lacks any real dramatic impetus.



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