Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THISISPOPBABY, ‘Trade’: Behind Closed Doors

Meeting point: O’Reilly Theatre, Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival
Sept 29-Oct 16

My review of Mark O’Halloran’s Trade coming up just as soon as I wish my dental hygienist was dead ...

One minute you’re walking amongst people and traffic on Great Denmark Street, the next you’re sitting in a tarnished bedroom in a B&B. A teenage boy sitting on the narrow bed takes a packet of cigarettes and two condoms from his pocket and leaves them on the bedside table. The light shining from the bathroom suggests another presence. Unavoidable is the fear that in the meeting of these two men – one young and vulnerable, the other bloody and heavy – something abusive and horrible will occur right before our eyes.

The danger of this never leaves our minds as O’Halloran’s script bridges the extraordinary similarities between the two men. On first impression one might say describing Ciarán McCabe’s minor as a ‘man’ is overreaching but we’re soon corrected. In being hurt by a broken family in the past he’s now determined to be responsible for his own daughter, Chloe, even if that drives him to money-making endeavours such as prostitution. McCabe’s performance is minimalist but somehow that’s how it clenches its fists. His numbed emotions show little fear, leaving us more concerned for him than he is for himself. And when he smiles in contemplation of Chloe and of someday being rich and looking after them both, we are reminded of the hope and idealism of youth.

Philip Judge’s older man is a case in point that such idealism can sometimes never manifest. It’s hard to imagine he ever desired to be at any point in his life a laid-off dockworker, a closeted homosexual, and a lying husband and father. He’s astonished that that this rent boy is somehow making his way into his dreams, is regularly invading his thoughts. Watching him inquire about the young man’s life is like watching a dialogue between father and son but his disturbing commands that he remove his clothes remind us of the sordid premise of the encounter.

Trade hardly allows director Tom Creed the lyrical quality that swept his more recent work but still he finds it in a pace which quickens and arrests, speaks and un-speaks.  In his staging he charts a crescendo from separation to contact. Furthermore, production company THISISPOPBABY continue to shake the rafters of popular culture with the demanding voices of the marginalised.  

O’Halloran’s play, in Judge’s crushingly sincere performance, becomes an unexpected lament for our social history. We see a man who has hidden his honesty all his life. In the wake of his father’s death he realises the fear that he’s living a life where people only know him in pieces, never whole. To be acknowledged is to receive indifference, and that is all too high a price to pay if the cost is keeping such great potential for beauty and love locked behind closed doors.

What did everybody else think?

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