The East Pier at the Abbey Theatre
October 24, 2013
The second of two plays running in rep at the Abbey Theatre, both written and directed by Paul Mercier, The East Pier, like The Passing before it, is a quick glance at people who can’t let go. A chance encounter in a small harbor town reunites two childhood sweethearts, an oft thought of event made real in a wound down hotel lobby. Awkward talk of career, kids and cohorts turns to a more heartfelt discourse on their shared sexual history resulting in a heated confrontation over the fall out of a fumbled pass.
The preservation of ones memory in the mind of another seems to be the key focus as the characters both resist and then persist down memory lane. As wires are crossed, facts fudged and colour added to a time long since faded the hope and hastiness of youth gives way to the reality and consequence of middle age. What was forever marking what is and is to be.
Much like the rest of us, Jean (Andrea Irvine) and Kevin (Don Wycherley) are at an impasse in their lives and are looking to their past to make sense of their present. Self made they’ve come a long way from the “cheap nuns” and “reject Christian Brothers” who schooled them but in many ways are frozen in the days of their courtship. Given the anxiety and unease caused by their current situation they try and find comfort in memory.
But memory is subjective and the way they see themselves and the events that shaped them stubbornly refuse to align with the recollections of the other. As they struggle to shape or surmise the time gone by the actors struggle to convey the mounting tension that should result from the confusion, reaming of names and places, correcting or concurring with one another but never managing to impart the impact of anything. We never feel a part of their reminiscence, just the disorientation that occurs through recollection.
There is a distinct lack of drama to the piece, unaided by the poor use of Anthony Lambe’s set and a genuine lack of spark between the actors. You just don’t believe that they ever really knew each other. The energy of both performers was down on opening night while Wycherley doesn’t have the elasticity to bring anything to Kevin beyond his stock mannerisms. The random, muddled text, which juxtaposes between past, present, fact and friction, might reflect real life but is perplexing theatre.
Staged in real time The East Pier just doesn’t seem to be about anything, a likely result of the director being to close to the te