Saturday, May 17, 2014

Turnaround Productions, 'On City Water Hill'

An IFTA-winning producer thinks big as he seeks help from a hitman for his next feature.

Theatre Upstairs
May 6-17

I don't have time to do a full review of On City Water Hill by Philip St John.

Set on a hillside overlooking Dublin, the play presents an exchange between an IFTA-winning producer and a professional hitman. The producer (in a furious turn from Neil Fleming) claims to be researching for a big screen feature.

What unravels is a revenge thriller with one major problem - if there is a clear hero in Pat Nolan's hitman we never worry or root for him. While it sees male violence being industrialised, the play doesn't deliver any powerful insight into such a reality. It feels more like a polemic, as the producer - a walking epitome of Celtic Tiger ideals - ends up with a gun to his head. 

The playwright hasn't gripped the emotional arcs of the work (Fleming is blasting his material to pieces trying to make it transform). Weaknesses in the writing aside, the performances are quite solid. Liam Halligan's direction moves things along smoothly and Laura Kelly's brave set design doesn't seek naturalistic conviction, as symmetrical blue panels tacked to the theatre wall suggest a sky. It makes you wonder if On City Water Hill would be better off with a more stylised form.

What did everybody else think?

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