Heroin at axis: Ballymun

October 24, 2013


Recipient of this years Spirit of the Fringe award, Heroin by Grace Dyas is laudable for its scope and its ambition. Loosely tracing the tracks left on the body, mind and spirit since Heroin began to creep into the the country in 1979 it lies reality and theatricality astride one another and the resulting friction makes for uncomfortable viewing.

The passing of time is represented by three drug addicts who sit, smoke and shoot up on a couch as the years reel by on a small television screen before them. Snatches of period music signify the shifting decades as monologues sewn together from interviews with surviving addicts chart the ‘swings and roundabouts’ of a community caving in on itself.

The stitching of the piece is familiar to their other recent production, The Family, where segments are repeated, (some intermittently, others straight away) making clear the continual cycle of shame, rage and frustration using action rather than words. Doireann Coady’s suggestive set is assembled by the actor Ger Kelly(between jabs of smack) under the direction of the testily tempered Barry Ward, who controls the music and mood lighting with a wave of his hand. Sporadically Lauren Larkin interjects with tales of sexual and familial manipulation.

It’s a production in no great hurry to make its point and is not afraid to slump into periods of silence but in spite of these segments being effective the production as a whole could do with being about 30 minutes shorter. There are interesting ideas contained within, too many to be given their due. Where you’re struck by a thought or an aspect of the staging but before you can fully digest it the production has moved on.

The rapid delivery of the dialogue by the otherwise fine performers captures the chaotic world that the characters inhabit, making the production more evocative than thought provoking. But while effective in keeping us on edge it is also a barrier to feeling for the characters or clearly comprehending what the production has to say on it’s brief.

Writer/Director Grace Dyas handles one of the darker, yet less talked about, issues of modern Irish history with a mixture of youthful enthusiasm and great intelligence, traits that can counteract one other. Where bursts of anger and sweeping statements are left to fend for themselves, unexplored, having the duel result of making us think about the negative effect on the community but not feel the shame or the anger of societies failings. A society we are a part of.

Never taking the easy option, Heroin is a vast, intellective piece of theatre, steadily performed and aggressively realised. A combination of absurd humour and thorough research mixed with theatre techniques not often seen on the Irish stage make THEATREclub deserving of their fiery reputation. If only they could find the humanity to compliment their work.

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