Trade (Site Specific)

October 24, 2013



Trade is the latest play, in a year full of them, to deal with the Irish inability to communicate with one another. Playwright Mark O Halloran wrote two such shows-The Head of Red O Brien and Mary Moterhead, although these productions, by Galway’s TrueWest Theatre, were revivals- or first staging’s, of scripts penned in 2001. This then is his first new play in ten years, produced by THISISPOPBABY, directed by Tom Creed and is site-specific, set in an actual B&B on Gardiner Place.

Here, two fathers talk. About their relationship with themselves, their own fathers and their respective children. They are hopeful and hesitant. One is old. One is young. They are both needy. But their needs differ. One needs absolution, understanding, love. The other needs money.

Placed in close proximity to the audience they riff on the big burdens of our day- religion and responsibility- as O Halloran’s slight brush strokes paint a picture of fatherhood that is delicate and fraught with apprehension, worry and love. The patriarch, so often distant, harsh and scary when seen in, or through, the family, is free to expose his true self in a one on one situation with another man. In a B&B. In Gardiner Place.

Philip Judge’s performance is disturbingly honest. Restrained yet open and woeful in the truest sense of that word, his sympathetic portrayal gives layers to a character who has betrayed the ones he loves, broken the law and is, in effect, taking advantage of a youth’s own penury. He is looking for a shared connection to pacify his own loneliness.

Ciarán McCabe’s minimalist turn as the younger father insures this can never happen. Removed of emotion, this for him is a business transaction. He’ll talk and he’ll drink and he’ll share. But it’s on Judge’s dime. His nearly monosyllabic speech and minute expressions give little away, helping needle Judge’s insecurities who tries, and fails, to regain control by having him strip. The sight of naked, youthful flesh further demeans his own sorry state.

My one complaint has to do with my viewpoint, where McCabe would often disappear from my eye line and onto the bed, depriving me of the subtleties of his performance, which were apparent when standing.

It’s an intriguing and involving piece; one that you feel is played out in reality in similar rooms throughout the city. Deftly directed by Tom Creed, every move around the space, designed with a sparing touch by Ciaran O Melia, has a purpose, a hesitant reverberation of our own nervous encounters.

Trade was subtle and sensitive theatre, it’s mediations long lasting.

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