Animus at The Lir

November 4, 2013


It’s an unfortunate irony that a show devised by one of the countries leading sound designers, Dennis Clohessey, should suffer from issues in that department. But between the live orchestration overpowering the dialogue, occasionally poor diction and projection, and the low quality recordings, that’s exactly what happened in Animus, a Gothic B-Movie for the stage that ran at The Lir until Saturday.

It’s a shame because once it walks off these problems it has a lot going for it. Not least a brilliant, wordless comic performance from Anna Sheils McNamee, as the younger of two deranged sisters, sole survivors of a fire that wiped out their family. (The older sis is played with typical aplomb by Camille Ross as if Mrs Havisham were possessed by Mrs Slocombe).

Locked away from the world in a mansion they have inherited from their Aunt, the siblings adapt a twisted mother-daughter relationship, full of weird whimsy and explosive rages. When a new estate agent sets up shop in town, however, the girls -fuelled by revenge fantasies and psychotic fairy tales, invite the malevolent stranger to view their home… with inevitable results.

Beautifully designed by Aedin Cosgrove, Kevin Smith’s lighting is superb while the costumes by Donncha O Dea are periodic perfection. And the live music composed by Clohessey-and his sound design, soaks us in the sinister.

Director Noelia Ruiz has chocked the piece full of peculiarities. A macabre dance around a kitchen table, a bizarre and suddenly violent playtime and the juxtaposition of the context provided by the Garda voice over and Jack Phelan’s video design, sets the tone askew.

But instead of allowing the laughs to come naturally the production sets out specifically to milk them; when they come, they are distinctly unsatisfying. Ross is a solid character actor with the potential to be brilliant, but she needs to stop applying gimmicky ‘I’m a loon’ voices and that same psychotic eye roll to every part she plays.

Ruiz should have pushed her to explore the chink in her psyche, the very thing that puts her at odds with the world, so as to fully capture that borderline between merriment and madness, which would have unified the tone.

Her absurd monologues would then have disturbed rather than just amused and the subtler criticisms of society contained within the devised text would have sat more comfortably with the aesthetic.

But her chemistry with McNamee is terrific, whose facial dexterity is a true joy to watch. And when all the elements of the production settle together it’s a pleasure to submit to its crepuscular spell

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