Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Katie O'Kelly, 'Counter Culture': Money Makes the World Go Round

A jaunty solo performance about workers in a fictional Clerys-type department store in Dublin resonates with the 1913 centenary. 

The New Theatre
Feb 10-15

My review of Counter Culture by Katie O'Kelly coming up just as soon as I make a dash to Cosmetics for a blast of Flowerbomb ...

Last September Katie O'Kelly's workplace comedy composed part of a body of Dublin Fringe productions that marked the 1913 Lockout centenary. Its revival now is peculiarly timed to the arrival of snow in Dublin, as the play begins with a snowflake's curious descent over the city, gazing in wonderment until landing in the hands of the Jim Larkin statue. Across the road is Mackens - a fictional Clerys-type department store - about to open its doors on the busiest day of the year.

O'Kelly's solo performance whips up a shop floor of employees: a pregnant woman who slipped on the ice on her way to work, a granny on her last day before retirement, a working class security guard afraid of looking posh, and a foreign national with an unknown past. Just as an apathetic manager serves up zero-hour contracts, a cryptic figure from the shop's past pays a visit.

A spare set accommodates O'Kelly, who carefully collects her colourful characters as if exquisite items from the clothes rail. A jaunty physicality underpins her smart script, all tightly tucked by director Donal O'Kelly. No doubt inspired by the Clerys strike in 2012 where workers protested the cutting of the company's pension scheme, this play looks at the passivity of the workplace and how individuals can be prompted to take action.

By the end its political allegory is as subtle as a Brown Thomas shop window but what resonates is O'Kelly's stylish storytelling, a chic talent we'll look forward to seeing more of.

What did everybody else think?

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