Moment at the Civic Theatre

October 24, 2013

Returning to Ireland on the back of rave reviews and a sell out run in London’s Bush Theatre Tall Tales Theatre Company’s production of Moment, from the pen of their artistic director Deirdre Kinehan, may have lost some of the immediacy it contained at the tiny Project Cube (where it had it’s initial run in November 09) yet still remains a well acted and beautifully crafted piece of theatre.

A family gathers to split bread, to toast the return of a prodigal son who, in a break from the norm, has brought a girl home to meet the mammy. But more is served up than quiche and meringue when the girl accidentally steps in the family dirt and drags it into the open, forcing them to confront the demons that have kept them frozen in a nightmarish moment of madness a decade and a half before.

A searing look at how a family suffers the guilt and the burden of a crime as much as the actual perpetrator it is not in words that this piece gathers its strength. It is in action. And the excellent cast (under the observant eye of director David Horan) varnish their well-drawn characters with terrific detail, packing weight behind the scripted punch.

Arriving to an empty house, Niall (Ronan) and Ruth (Natalie Radmall Quirke) are charged by the first flushes of love. Unable to keep their hands off of one another these passionate fumblings become protective actions- the taking of the hand, the rubbing of a shoulder, when tension arises.

The tension is brought by Maeve Fitzgerald’s Niamh, whose dogged capriciousness never lets the silt settle, her fawned amazement creating a sense of disquiet, which sets the tone for things to come. Gawking at her brother’s girl, she shovels food into her mouth as if to stifle down the fury at how he’s come good, getting the girl and the acclaim for his paintings that “capture this great sense of incarceration” and “the great absence of light”. Meanwhile she hasn’t managed to hold down a job for longer than six months and bridles at any hint of human affection.

The youngest was the most loved and here she earns her keep. Kate Ni Chonaigh’s Ciara is peacemaker and tea maker, running interference between her siblings while keeping her mother (Deirdre Donnelly) on an even keel. Given that the latter seems to be in denial about what went on in the past, and is going on in the present, she has her work cut out for her as the three other women stir the pot of the past refusing to let it settle.

Moment is essentially about rehabilitation, about a family moving on from a dark chapter in their history. It’s great strength is that it is so utterly involving, where nothing is black or white. Kinahan draws you in with the inanity of family life, makes each character so immediately identifiable, so that when the truth is thrown up all over the dinner table you’re unable and unwilling to say what is right or wrong, rather you are forced to walk in their shoes and really think about their situation.

Some of it doesn’t work. Niall’s explanation for his senseless crime is unsatisfactory, as any such explanation would be in real life. But if you are to bring it into the theatrical realm you need to make it work. And treading as it does on rawest of nerves it fails to conclude what’s come before.

There’s also a feeling that the cast are a little too on edge prior to Ruth’s revelation, with too many pointed pauses or quickly covered reactions. While we’re aware the shit is going to hit the fan we don’t necessarily need to see it as soon as we do.

But aside from this, Moment is a terrific piece of theatre that looks at the way we cope with a sudden trauma tapping into the innate sense of injustice that comes with being Irish. It’s far from being the most original piece of theatre you’ll see this year but it’s one of the most precise.


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