Looking back on a flurry of locally produced plays

Theatre Reviews: Selvage, Woolly’s Quest, Jingle Bang Jangle, Grand

James Riordan in Brú Theatre’s Selvage at the Mick Lally Theatre. Photo:- Julia Dunin Photography

James Riordan in Brú Theatre’s Selvage at the Mick Lally Theatre. Photo:- Julia Dunin Photography

A FLURRY of locally-produced plays have graced Galway’s stages over the past few weeks, the most of impressive of them being Brú Theatre’s Selvage at the Mick Lally Theatre, written and performed by James Riordan and deftly directed by Lara Campbell.

Whereas one-actor shows are often stripped back affairs, Riordan deployed a range of effects and elements in an always absorbing, frequently funny, and keenly touching piece. Riordan played Joe Fanny, a vulnerable youth whose life is destabilised when his activist granny is imprisoned and he must face the world on his own. With a lovely live music score from Anna Mullarkey, Selvage featured puppetry, masks, and imaginative use of props as Riordan delivered a terrific piece of theatrical story-telling. Sarah Jane Shields’ lighting and Gavin Morgan’s also added to the play’s impact. Selvage returns later this year; don’t miss it.

Branar Theatre’s kids’ show Woolly’s Quest, at the Town Hall, was a very entertaining saga of a plucky sheep who sets out to retrieve her fleece after it has been sheared. Her adventuresome quest yielded great songs and hearty laughs galore to the huge delight of its young audience. Amid Orla Clogher’s charming farmyard setting and attired in Elaine Mears’ witty sheep costumes, actors Miquel Barcelo (who also composed the music ), Helen Gregg, and Jonathan Gunning turned in zestful and enjoyable performances. Marc McLochlann directed the show with élan.

The Taibhdhearc staged a romping revival of Pádhraig Ó’Giollagáin’s 1989 musical play, Jingle Bang Jangle. Adapted from Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’, it’s a rollicking, lusty drama about a love triangle involving a village blacksmith (Peadar Cox ), his adulterous wife (Fionnuala Ní Fhlatharta in a role that is a far cry from her Bernie in Ros na Rún ), and the local miller (Eoin Ó Dubhghaill ). Interweaving this tale was the drama of Queen Betty (Ann Marie Horan ) who, with her royal retinue, arrives looking for a cure for her afflicted derriere.

Eoin Ó Dubhghaill and Fred McCloskey. Photo: Simon Boyle

Director Rod Goodall captured the bawdiness of Chaucer and the show also had echoes of the ‘strolling player’ style of performance of Footsbarn. At times admittedly the proceedings got rather panto-ish but, equally, the play was able to stretch beyond easy laughs to touch on the pain of jealousy and betrayal.

Grand, in the Town Hall studio, was a co-production between Westworks and Simulacra theatre companies, written by Marciana Negrea (who also directed ) and Cristina Iancu. It set out to dramatise the various emotional stresses and strains of modern life through a ‘theatrical collage’ that included music, movement, rap, scenes from a game show, passages of motivational speaking and recorded voice-overs giving textbook definitions of psychological/emotional problems.

It was ambitious and high on concept, but weak on execution. There were riffs and ruminations on abstract generalities like happiness, but the show’s ideas were never brought into sharp enough focus where one could recognise and relate to them. Similarly the ‘characters’ played by the four actors (Leticia D Ortiz, Yvonne Lydon, Brian O’Hanrahan, and Ferdia Manning ) were mere mouthpieces for the script’s scattergun musings, rather than rounded personalities. In short, far from being ‘grand’ the show was actually something of an ordeal; alas.

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