Friday, February 27, 2015

The Ark, 'Far Away From Me': The Prince and the Pea

You sense an attempted subversion of a fairytale in Amy Conroy's Princess and the Pea-inspired play for young audiences 

The Ark
Feb 14-Mar 15

My review of Far Away From Me by Amy Conroy coming up after the jump ...

Only a real princess has the sensitivity to feel a pea underneath twenty mattresses. If we balk at Hans Christian Andersen’s kooky method of screening nobility, it’s because he insists on sensitivity as a definitive feature of female ascendancy. Trust Amy Conroy, author of the gay romance I ♥ Alice ♥ I, to throw a gender bender into such a claim. Yet, her new play for young audiences seems strangely obligated to Andersen’s fairytale. 

Conroy turns the story around and makes a boy, Kevin (Peter Corboy, endlessly energetic), the central character. He charges through an urban landscape depicted in Maree Kearns’s picturesque set, readily drawing his sword, all the while wishing he had a more regal name. Such princely ideals clash with the tomboy behavior of his best friend Katie, who he feels best to distance himself from. It is this critique of gender-based assumptions and how they lead to exclusion that is most important to a young audience. 

Yet the play prefers another direction, the strained relationship between Kevin and his mother, who is often kept late in work. His loneliness propels him into a fantasy-type world of the Andersen fairytale, where he is a prince but the prospect of marrying a princess doesn’t become favourable. 

Conroy’s staging for The Ark is crammed yet somewhat sustainable. Opposite Corboy is Niamh McGrath, who plays several characters with charm and panache. The stakes are underscored by Raymond Scannell’s pulsing music, suspecting a darker reality. Other approaches are less realised. The shapes cut by aerialists Emily Aoibheann and Elaine McCague (of PaperDolls fame) enchant and compel but need to be given purpose rather than just spectacle. 

You sense the attempted subversion of a fairytale but the play is not fully-formed and tries to make up for it with too many plot directions and stage devices. Far Away From Me doesn’t go far enough. 

What did everybody else think?

1 comment:

  1. Just a credit note: the bed structure was originally designed by PaperDolls for our show BUNK and was adapted in design by Maree Kearns for Far Away From Me.