‘One Act Festival’ – Irish Theatre, reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by August 13, 2015

‘One Act Festival’ is a fresh and varied selection of short plays, presented by the Irish Theatre Players, at the Irish Club WA, 61 Townshend Road, Subiaco each evening at 8.00 until Saturday 15th August.

Last night was a charity event when all of the ticket profit and raffle money went to a family, sadly experiencing troubles through no fault of their own. A most generous action.

 

Often ‘One Act’ shows are an excuse for theatre groups to water down the standards. The scripts can be thin and amateurish, the acting ‘barely satisfactory’ and the whole set lit by a single white flood. So it was a pleasant surprise to experience three beautifully written plays, with very different themes, being presented with full professionalism.

The directors are all competent actors, but for Caroline this was her first venture into directing alone. The whole trio showed a huge amount of skill and technique.

 

For each play, the stage is surrounded by black drapes, so the atmosphere and location relies upon the well-chosen props.

The lighting and sound design is by Phyllis Graham who has provided some most realistic dramatic effects for the wartime play. In the same play, Liz Quigley has provided authentic uniforms and dresses of the First World War era. Great work.

 

‘Voices in the Rubble’ is a fast-moving, absurdist comedy written by Irish playwright and poet, Darren Donohue, and directed by Lisa Reilly (45 minutes).

After he was invited onto the ‘New Playwrights’ Programme’ at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 2010, Darren has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award three years out of the last four.

The scene is the sitting room of an average house.

     When 30 yrs. old Tony (Adrian Mills) comes home from a hard day at the office, his loving wife, Avril (Mary Murphy) enquires what kind of day he has had; he casually replies that he has ‘screwed’ the secretary. Totally unfazed, Avril, who is seemingly without any morals or conscience, goes on to describe her strange day and how she killed the milkman – or was it the postman?

     As the evening goes by, Avril become aroused by the details of Tony’s midday fun and the couple start to plan a wild romp of a holiday in Europe; however, the loving couple are interrupted by a half-dressed young man, George (Bobby Greaney) – Avril’s toy boy? Then who is the elderly man (Brian O’Donovan) in the flat, who seems to be paying more than a passing interest in Avril.

This is a very funny play. In the beginning you find yourself wondering where this tale is going and just as you think you know, the whole thing swings around and leaves you gasping and grinning as the couple lead their daring, private lives. Well-developed characters with very funny ‘muted’ delivery. Top-notch acting.

 

‘Over the Top’ highlights the harsh reality of war. It was written by Irish playwright, Rodney Quinn and directed by Katie Galvin (40 minutes).

This play is an extended version of Quinn’s 2005 play. This full version was first performed two years ago in south London.

 

The scene is a Great War battlefield trench in 1918; but this situation is relevant to any country’s troupes, in any war, at any time.

        Two, twenty-year-old soldiers are sitting in a damp trench waiting for their breakfast to be delivered. Jack (Brian Donohue) who is missing his beloved Maggie (Lisa Whelan) back home in Eire, is wondering why he is fighting for the English. Tommy (Blake Prosser) with his crisp upper-class English accent is determined to make a name for himself as a hero. Sergeant Jones (Liam McDonald), a loud bully, who has become tired of the endless war, breaks the peace. He is delivering two new recruits, both barely 16 yrs. old. ‘Witter’ (Oliver Kaiser) has joined because he does not want to be seen as a coward in the eyes of his girlfriend, Mary (Sofie Riedy-Crofts) or her mother (Charlotte Webber). Young Billy (Matthew Brennan) has left a broken-hearted mother (Jo Hennessey) behind.

     Will any of them see home again?

This is a beautifully constructed script, as it passes back and forward from the trench misery to the warmth of home. The poignant situation highlights the cruelty of war, and the dirty tricks used to get volunteers to fight for the lost cause.

Katie Galvin’s direction is a perfect balance, being powerful and yet not over sentimental. The cast, with the brutal sergeant and the weak helpless youngsters, brought convincing reality to the situation. Even the short cameos by the women ‘back home’ gave depth to the cruelty and the heartbreak war causes. The interaction of the cast was convincing and horrific, with each actor knowing exactly what was expected of them. A wonderfully moving play.

 

‘W.A.G.’ was written by multi-award winning playwright, Gemma Doorly and directed by Caroline McDonnell. (50 minutes).

Gemma was nominated for an IFTA ‘Best Actress Award’, however, Dooley is probably best known in Ireland for her 10 years in the soap ‘Fair City’.

The scene is an upper-class home, with comfortable furnishings.

        A smart but jaded, middle-aged woman (Rachel Bartlett) pours herself another vodka. The doorbell rings and in comes a smartly dressed woman (Chantelle Bertino-Clarke) about twenty years younger. The older woman thanks the girl for coming to have a chat – a chat about her husband’s infidelity!

     The girlfriend is an airline pilot who has made love to the husband in most cities in Europe. Naturally, the long-suffering wife has numerous questions to ask, and even more comments to this ‘slut’ who has pinched her husband.

     As the belligerent conversation progresses, and with a few more vodkas consumed, the wife mellows. Faced with four alternative actions, which compromise will be found for the two relationships?

For those that lead an innocent life, WAG means ‘wives and girlfriends’.

This play demanded subtlety in the facial expressions, body language and voice tone, with excellent guidance from the director and perfect chemistry between the two ‘lovers’ the result was outstanding. The actors were like tennis players, passing the ball back and forward, sometimes softly and then occasionally giving a good belt to rock the boat. Superb timing.

The good solid cheer at the end of the play showed how successful this wonderful play was. Many congrats.

This set of three plays is well worth going out on a cold night to see, probably the best trio that I have seen in some time. Try to catch them.