Spinning at Smock Alley

October 28, 2014


Conor is not the only one ‘spinning’ in this Jim Culleton helmed original play from Deirdre Kinahan. All the disparate elements seem to be slightly out of control in a production that is admirable, involving but ultimately un-fulfilling.

A just released convict turns up at the sea-side cafe of Fiona Bell’s Annie to attempt to make amends for causing the death of her 17-year old daughter, five years before. In the face of her shock and disgust he leads her through the facts only he knows, about her daughters last hours, as their juxtaposed back stories swirl around them in the form of her daughter (Catriona Ennis) and his wife (Janet Moran).

There’s an inevitable sense of doom and closure gleaned from the telling of these sob stories and Ennis, Moran and Shields are the type of performers with enough natural charm to make the ciphers they’ve been given watchable. Bell is really excellent, a wretched shell of salty tears and incredulous contempt.

Kinahan’s script deals with meaty subjects like infanticide, the desperate position many fathers are left in by the law and the corrosive wear and tear by present or absent mother/father figures, a thematically ambitious and pertinent original drama that makes for a welcome break from our recent diet of deconstructions, revivals and meta-theatrical celebrations of form.

But there isn’t enough time given over to flesh any of this, crammed-as it is,into 70-minutes. There isn’t one moments silence, as the cast line-read to move the plot forward, with no pause included to let the themes sit with the audience or the emotional impact of a statement take hold, depriving it of a sense of atmosphere.

This may be the bias of my sex speaking, but for a playwright who has so powerfully drawn on the grey areas of these themes before -on the rights of criminals to forgiveness and a life after time served, i couldn’t help but feel like Kinahan has taken a more black and white- and less interesting, approach with Spinning.

Conor isn’t just a father who commits an unspeakable act. He’s a mentally disturbed mammy’s boy who develops a questionable relationship with a teen. He is shown cracking up, but the societal fault lines that trigger his meltdown are hinted at in a manner that seems dismissive. He’s a loony-toon whose actions are divorced from their root which makes the whole affair feel didactic.

Plot has taken over from exploration in a drama that seems to reheat prejudice rather than come to terms with just how people can get into the state Conor ends up in.

True, a longer running time would have helped these characters not disolve like stock, but it would be better undoing the knots it ties its storytelling up in- the red herrings, the forced parallels, and try instead to find an original approach to its topic.

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