Fractal November 6th 2017

Last Monday James drove Fractal solo as I was in Prague, CZ, working on the second #ABCirk exchange. I tweeted in a lot. You listen in here;

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Mark O’Rowe, writer of Terminus, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970. He grew up in the working-class-suburb Tallaght. This environment, as well as his avid watching of exceptionally violent films as a teen is what fuels the violence in his work, he states. O’Rowe is described in The Literary Encyclopedia as being someone who challenges “[Irish] drama’s traditional concern with rural life by focusing on urban stories, usually characterised by high-octane language and a surreal and violent sensibility”.

O’Rowe began writing because of both a desire and a need. Having nothing more than secondary school education, he had limited job options. He decided finally to write something thinking it would either go well, or he’d never try again.

O’Rowe wrote his first play, The Aspidistra Code, at age 26 in 1995, and has been steadily churning out plays and screenplays since. The Aspidistra Code never quite came to fruition as he hoped but he summoned the ability to carry on. Arguably his most popular play, ‘Howie the Rookie’, premiered in Bush Theatre, London, in 1999. This play may be considered as setting the bar for O’Rowe’s ever popular monologue-style.

Terminus, which premiered in The Abbey, 2007, is also written in a similar monologue style. Though it does have three very distinct characters in it and not just one like Howie the Rookie; (A) – ex-schoolteacher and mother, (B) – her estranged daughter who lives alone, and (C) – a psychotic singing serial killer in the form of a man. The narrative which is told from each character’s point of view aims to regale us with the events of a single night.

As you’re already thinking this play sounds absurd, it should be apparent that nothing but an abstract set would be appropriate. This becomes more obvious as the play moves from Samaritans’ office, to apartment, to bar, to alley, tram, arm of a crane, car chase, petrol station… and so on. It’s because of this variety in the setting that it’s so important for the actors, who are really storytellers, to be able to paint these pictures for us.

Thereisbear! Theatre performed Terminus in the Town Hall Theatre Studio, Galway, 26th of February until the 1st of March.

The flat stage area was marked by three wooden palettes, with bright back lamps behind. A long white sheet stretched out behind the performers which was lit pink or blue, by six Fresnel lamps with coloured gels. Finally, there were three LED spotlights behind them capable of a wide colour range. Though simple enough, it was quite effective in creating an atmosphere to match the events being regaled at particular moments. As it wasn’t in anyway cumbersome it seemed to match the simplicity of the overall portrayal of the story.

The actor-storytellers were all equally faced with the task of giving us an energetic account of their night. They did this very well with great use of their bodies, hand gestures, facial expressions, and the tone of their voice.

The pace and rhythm of the play was nothing short of delightful. I feel any experienced poet or spoken word artist would have appreciated that aspect of it. Some of the lines were so melodic that the jarring words describing a brutal murder almost seemed less devastating. There’s no fault in the description of even the most risqué events “nipples poking, evoking so prevailing a craving, I’m quaking”.

My only grievance really was the way it ended. Not wanting to give it away of course, I simply think it should have ended as it began, with (A), rather than (C). I left the studio the  with a vague sense of unease after the end. Though perhaps that was the intended effect.

Overall, Terminus makes for a very unique theatre experience, one I’m glad I had, and certainly one that will remain with me for quite some time.

‘Beyond Therapy’

It’s not often you see something where the script itself, the acting, and all things technical are so absurd you question how anyone could conceivably allow it on stage.

‘Beyond Therapy’, was exactly that. Brought to you by Orion’s Belt Theatre, it played in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway, the 15th and 16th of January.

It’s hard to tell if the story could have been any more believable if the acting hadn’t be quite so farcical. I doubt any more serious of a company would have used a play about two people in therapy, one of which is living with his boyfriend while have his therapist suggests writing personal ads seeking women, the other having her therapist constantly make passes at her.

Featured in the studio I guessed it was more of an amateur production so I led myself to believe that the awkward beginnings would be accounted for by nerves. However, every overstated acting tool was used; attempting to self-groom while waiting, purposefully rearranging, the overly pronounced differences in stances and styles of walking. It also took me quite some time to realise that the play must have been set in America, and that accent was what all the actors were attempting. As none of them, with the exception of the Southern Bell, could maintain it for the duration I found it very distracting through out.

Once again, making allowances for the fact that it was an amteur production, I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of the set. But something other than the rather particular purple-cushioned seats of the studio itself would have made a big difference.

The whole experience was akin to that of watching a parade of contrasting acting styles and techniques. Interesting no doubt, but not what you’d ever think to put together.