Can James Ireland's tragedy find its spark?
The New Theatre
My review of Fireplay by James Ireland coming up just as soon as I play a game of Beggar-My-Neighbour ...
What do your dreams really mean? Two friends dreaming about fire in James Ireland's new play suspect different interpretations. Victor (Jack O'Donoghue) sees amongst flames in an open field the figure of a woman, an unwitting image of desire. For Michael (Colm Summers), who is visited every night by a man obsessed with fire (Hugo Lau), dreams confirm what you already know, in his case: certain oblivion.
The four young men gathered in a bedsit, a scrupulous wood-built set designed by Eoin Lennon, are hiding out from mysterious circumstances. Michael is recovering from an assault which left him with broken ribs, and there is an air of misfortune at the mention of his childhood and that of his brother Luke (Colm Gleeson) living on the north side of the city. Michael doesn't go outside without a knife ("It's not safe at night") and after his failure to acquire medicine from the hospital, he dejectedly reveals: "They don't deliver to this side any more." At risk of demonising real life, the play wisely refrains from referencing Dublin.
Directed by the ensemble after an intensive period of living together as in some model of method-acting, the results can be counter-effective. There are vacuums consisting of nothing but guzzlings of beer, cereal crunches and rigorous tying of shoelaces that all might strive for authenticity or claustrophobia but ultimately drain the play of any momentum. The plot is hard to centre too. When towards the end Michael declares to his brother that they cannot keep living here, it feels like a development that should have occurred earlier, developing a drama involving Luke's seeming desire to stay, sustained by his addicted ritual to the fridge to grab a beer.
Amidst the playful fraternal dialogue there are leaps into poetry that can feel too great ("I thought birds were exempt from this place") but there are lines wherein Luke declares his brotherly love, beautifully measured by Gleeson, where a golden connection with the audience is truly felt.
The makings of a repressed masculine reality are here, with cut-out snippets from Playboy adorning the stage sadly in lieu of any real contact with women. The play doesn't communicate itself too well though, especially the logic of its bloody and farcical finale. Dazing like a disorderly flame but the Fireplay can't quite find its spark.
What did everybody else think?