Nun’s Island Theatre, Galway Theatre Festival
My review of Caroline Lynch’s Almost a Fantasy coming up just as soon as I think “there goes my venue” ...
The Victorian drawing room drama with its intellectual subjects and social trivialities often serves as a model for contemporary comedy. Never have I seen it swung to such fantastical distance as in Caroline Lynch’s Almost a Fantasy, a debut which sucks logic, realism and other textual particles into its orbit only to fling them on their way again as far away as Pluto.
Newlyweds Donna and George watch the sunrise from their honeymoon suite. She soon after wishes to tell him stories involving a tiny woman bearing a banner saying “shut up” and moon-dust (which is more fizzy than one might think) but he’s too busy playing piano in his mind to listen. George is seemingly suffering from some sort of Beethoven complex, looking to adopt the composer’s history of falling in love with his students. Donna on the other hand claims to be amnesiac and can’t recall a wedding between them ever taking place. A chambermaid in a wedding gown enters proceedings, a runaway bride possibly carrying the train in this metaphysical matrimony or threatening to knock the betrothed even further off course.
Lynch’s play is an anomaly of different aesthetics and cultural narratives. The glamour and flavour of her descriptions suggest a poetic fluency that well could have dominated and crushed this stage script into an epic poem. Instead, she manages to knit such artistry into an absurdist play, crackling with a wit that is flung like sharp cutlery across the stage with Mametian momentum. Such is also to the credit of expert deliveries by Lynch herself, as well as Martin Maguire and Helen Gregg. Wedding dress and tux are exchanged hands along with sexual affections, and as the play swoops into the territory of gender performativity we can’t help but wonder if Lynch is looking to throw her champagne in the face of the ceremony of matrimony as well.
Furthermore, Almost a Fantasy could be interpreted as an assault on the Georgian notion of men playing the piano and women having to sit at the window and listen. The heroine of the tale, somehow endorsed by the moon, is gifted with a perceptivity that forensically renders the speckles and textures of life so fantastical that her husband and his obvious lack of real musical talent are diminished. If this is a gender argument (with “shut up” serving as a lynchpin), Lynch does well to provide balance, revealing an insecure sexuality at the heart of George’s obsession with the piano. The high heels don’t stay on for long, and the play becomes more apparent as an individual arc of commitment and preparation. If theatre as psychiatry is this comical and magical, I’ll certainly have another serving.
With Almost a Fantasy, Lynch successfully claims her corner of the theatre universe, aligning the stars in a manner one might think impossible. Her gravity as a playwright is only beginning to be felt.
What did everybody else think?