Monday, March 2, 2015

CallBack Theatre, 'The Hole': Digging for Truth

John Sheehy's play about a self-exiled man in rural Ireland tests the boards of lunchtime theatre's new temporary residence. 

Bewley's Cafe Theatre (at Powerscourt Theatre)
Feb 18-Mar 7

My review of The Hole by John Sheehy coming up after the jump ...

As daylight creeps under the window shutters in the sizeable Powerscourt Theatre, you’d speculate if the space can achieve the same close-quarters intimacy of Bewley’s Café Theatre, now taken up residency while its original premises is refurbished. The offerings at the lunchtime theatre are rarely lightweight, and intense enough that you’d carefully lay down a spoon for fear of making a disruptive clank (soup lovers rejoice! The change of location still comes with a menu). Therefore, the near-analogue and minimal method of John Sheehy’s play for CallBack Theatre is also a demonstration of whether these architectural and scenographic realities can resolve.

Sheehy’s monologue about a self-exiled man in rural Ireland is given earthy and folk-like form in the flannel figure of Bren Barnett. The protagonist’s isolation is interrupted by the arrival of new neighbours next-door, whose little child gradually sweetens his cynical heart. Unfortunately, his return to society is tragically cut short.

As director, Sheehy places Barnett literally at the centre, with the warping lines of designer Olan Wrynn’s back-print fixing him at the epicenter of a black hole. The staging is bravely simple, Barnett’s delivery is unrushed, and the event has a habit of sucking you back in if you begin to drift over the slightly lengthy running time.

The Hole excavates the gossipy superficialities and conservatisms found in rural Ireland. It also turns into a deep exploration of processes of grief. Where the darkness was problematic to balance in Sheehy’s playful Fred and Alice, here he has unearthed it in a well-believable reality. Meanwhile, the intimate lunchtime theatre seems intact and leaves us nourished.

What did everybody else think?

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