Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dead Lady Productions, 'The Woods & Grandma': Among the Clouds

A refreshing new operetta gets the word out on Augusta Gregory.

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin Fringe Festival
Sep 21-23

My review of The Woods & Grandma by Cal Foger Day coming up just as soon as I butter my toast ...

Coole Park is nearly impenetrable, or so we gather from Cal Foger Day’s preamble to her refreshing new operetta. When she drove to the Galway estate, she was forced to leave as soon as she arrived, scraping paint against an automatic gate as she went. Coole Park, like its former owner Augusta Gregory, is difficult to access.

Gregory’s achievements are seen here through the enchanted eyes of her granddaughters, who gave an interview to RTÉ in 2002, now transformed into a libretto. Nudged along by a spry quartet, Day and Naoise Roo play two sisters getting their story straight before strolling down memory lane. In recalling a joke that brought Gregory to tears, Day’s voice shines with joy. 

Director Kristina Yee’s production embraces the opportunity to send up the legendary figures of the Celtic Revival, who resemble eccentric grown-ups in child eyes. Seán Kennedy comes and goes, in Catriona Maloney’s mordant costumes, as Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats. But the performer also lends some weight with a stirring operatic version of An Irish Airman Foresees his Death, signally the death of Gregory’s son. 

“To consider her identity is to consider her obscurity,” explains Day, in a production that explains its research as opposed to wearing it. Yes, it's unnecessarily instructive but it does get the word out on an ignored impresario. Can it be described as powerful? Not quite. Spreading the news? Definitely. 

What did everybody else think? 

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