Monday, February 16, 2015

Rough Magic, 'Everything Between Us': Ignorance is Bliss?

Two sisters collide in the foreground of Northern Ireland's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But obliteration isn't the goal. 

Project Arts Centre
13-28 Feb 

My review of Everything Between Us by David Ireland coming up just as soon as I become manager of a Starbucks in Ballymena ...

Few things are more exemplary of ignorance than a character so inflammatory as to assault a leader in the field of conflict resolution without asking questions first. “I hate her” declares Teeni, glibly mouthing off in Stacey Gregg’s arch performance, before considering the crucial: “Who is she?”.

Teeni has interrupted proceedings on day one of Northern Ireland’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a project in which her sister Sandra (Abigail McGibbon) serves on the committee. They haven’t seen each other in 11 years.

Wrestled by her sister inside a boiler room chromatically designed by Sarah Bacon, Teeni sounds off her resentment for the softening of Unionist thinking in her absence, while making a range of discriminatory statements that must be record-breaking, sticking up fingers to race, homosexuality, alcoholism and others. Sandra, not as cruelly witted but wonderfully resilient in McGibbon’s performance, is more interested in knowing where her sister has been. She thought she was dead.

It’s a drama of dichotomies in David Ireland’s 2011 play, now receiving its south-of-the-border debut in Rough Magic’s production. Director Sophie Motley covers every inch of the stage to distance and collide the sisters, with subtle illuminations from Sarah Jane Shiels’s lighting to measure the temperature of the scene. There is a comic sensibility in the staging, with Gregg’s misfit patrolling the storage room set with machinations labeled “GAS”, and perilously pushing buttons labeled “DO NOT PRESS”.  The play could end with everything blown to smithereens.

But obliteration isn’t the goal of Ireland’s play, the black lines of which nudge us to laugh while standing close to the edge of taboo. What unravels is a surprisingly profound study in bigotry, examining the collapse of an individual’s institutions, leaving Otherness as the only resort by which to define oneself. It’s a dark drama, skirting offensive but that’s how it cuts to the heart of offence itself. In that regard its reach is incredibly extensive, conveying everything between us.

What did everybody else think?

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