Theatre review: Galway Arts Festival

Farber Foundry: Molora

SOUTH AFRICA’S Farber Foundry provided an early highlight of this year’s festival with the first-week staging of Molora, director-author Yael Farber’s adaptation of The Oresteia.

Farber relocates Aeschylus’s ancient tragedy of murder and revenge to present-era South Africa and uses it as a prism through which to view the country’s transition to democracy and coming-to-terms with the violent and bitter legacy of apartheid.

While Farber lends this Greek text an African voice, she also remains close to the essential elements of the original play.

Farber’s script is chiefly drawn from The Libation Bearers, the middle play of Aeschylus’s trilogy. Thus we have the quest for vengeance by siblings Elektra and Orestes against their mother Klytemnestra following her murder of their father. Where Farber departs from Aeschylus is in having Orestes ultimately refrain from killing Klytemnestra.

At the centre of this visceral and compelling drama are three powerful performances from Jabulile Tshabalala (Elektra ), Sandile Matsheni (Orestes ) and, especially, Dorothy Ann Gould (Klytemnestra ). The play was also greatly enriched by the contribution of the singing chorus of Xhosa tribeswomen.

GYT: Chatroom

GALWAY YOUTH Theatre’s festival programme features three plays by leading contemporary playwrights, Enda Walsh, Neil LaBute, and Mark O’Rowe.

GYT’s presentation of Walsh’s Chatroom is an apt festival choice, given the season of his work also being staged at Druid. Chatroom also addresses the highly topical subjects of teenage suicide and internet use.

It presents a sextet of teenage chatroom users, venting their thoughts on everything from JK Rowling to Britney Spears. Then we meet the vulnerable Jim (nicely played by Eoin Butler Thornton ) who is harbouring thoughts of suicide.

He encounters the duo Jack (Owen Binchy ) and Emily (Shauna O’Connor ) who cynically try to persuade him to go through with his suicide. Countering their malevolent goadings are the benign promptings of William (Eamon Doran ), Eva (Aimee Riordan ) and, especially, Laura (Beau Holland ).

Walsh gives a perceptive and sensitive treatment of a very relevant subject and GYT’s production, directed by Andrew Flynn, does the play full justice.

GYT: Some Girls

GYT ALSO take over a bedroom in The House hotel for their site-specific staging of Neil LaBute’s Some Girls, directed by Niall Cleary.

On the verge of marriage, Guy (Cathal Finnerty ) embarks on a cross-country quest to touch base with a number of old girlfriends declaring that he feels a need to atone somehow for the way in which the relationships ended.

As he meets his ex-loves and they rake-up the ashes of old romances Guy emerges as a bit of a shit; vacillating, cowardly, and unreliable, despite his sundry declarations of sincerity and affection. He even surreptitiously tries to record his conversations to use them as a basis for a magazine article.

The play is nicely directed and well-acted by its cast of six, with the roles of the women taken by Orla O’Brien, Nessa Walsh, Kelsey Simpson, Stephanie Dufresne, and Síodhna O’Dowd.

GYT: Crestfall

GYT’S MAIN evening show is Mark O’Rowe’s Crestfall, again directed by Andrew Flynn.

This is a bleak ‘in-yer-face’ drama of depravity and degradation amid the benighted denizens of the eponymous urban wasteland of Crestfall.

The play comprises monologues delivered by three women, whose lives inter-connect; the promiscuous Olive (Seona Tully ), the mother Alice (Patricia Boahn ), and prostitute Tilly (Catherine Denning ).

While O’Rowe’s alliterative, poetic, language has an undeniable dramatic verve the relentless litany of violence and brutality can become wearing. O’Rowe runs through the whole catalogue of urban-underbelly horrors; drug addiction, extreme violence, prostitution, abortion, wife-beating, murder, and even bestiality.

Although the play ends on a note of hope, that moment of uplift does little to dispel the downbeat grimness of all that has proceeded. Nevertheless GYT’s production does feature three outstanding performances from its talented young actresses. There is also, as ever, a striking set by Owen MacCarthaigh, as well as lighting by Adam Fitzsimons and sound by Jack Cawley.

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