Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attic Productions, 'Marvel': The Things Money Can't Buy

Project Arts Centre,
Nov 19-23

My review of Marvel by Elizabeth Moynihan coming up just as soon as I should have been named Hermes ...

Every detail of Elizabeth Moynihan's new play, from its heated bedroom scenes of extramarital affair to the many unfinished lines of dialogue expected to be caught and completed by the other speaker, suggests an innate sense of intimacy. Unfortunately, it's an intensity that actors Alma Eno and Liam Hourican, and the intelligent directorial hand of Aoife Spillane-Hinks fail to deliver.

Set on a night during the critical stages of the financial crisis in September 2008, a financial trader named Dion wakes in his hotel room in Dublin to discover that he's lost a devastating amount of money. His lover, Marvel - an escort trafficked from Liberia - tries to comfort him. The play flashes back to show the rise of their relationship: their first meeting arranged by ominous business tycoon Goran, a romantic getaway to the Cheltenham races, and an instance of physical abuse against Marvel by aggressive clients, which brings them closer than before. Could this be love?

There are many mirrors in Marvel. The sexual relationship, in its rise and collapse, parallels the economic tides of boom and bust. The woman skilled in commodifing her body and the man with the wallet to invest in anything decide to commit to each other, in other words: to make an investment, one that goes south as neither party can quite claim the other's affections. The aqua-blue walls and sand-coloured carpet of Sonia Haccius' hotel room set may refer to the Libyan beach which Marvel describes herself being trapped but later evokes Dion's similar feelings of entrapment as he describes a primal instance of howling shamefully in the ocean. There is also something commendable in Moynihan's play to portray the mental decline of the financial investor, who has been a scathed figure in recent times. 

But the production stumbles due to confused deliveries and a lack of sexual chemistry between the two actors, who never quite get their timing right. It is also poorly paced (which is surprising, considering Spillane-Hinks' spinning Boston Marriage a few years back), which at times is a fault of a script that can be prone to awkward phrasing and overly-luminous detail. Two things never seem to meet harmoniously in Marvel. Even the sound design you'd wish would dial back the media bytes to allow for the scroll of Denis Clohessy's gorgeous piano. By the end we're left with the sense that there are some things money can't buy but what that is isn't necessarily anything to marvel at.

What did everybody else think?


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