The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Theatre: Every pair of shoes take you on a journey…

Every pair of shoes take you on a journey, or so said the father of the youngest character in ‘Breathless’, a fifteen year-old girl, played so wonderfully by Kate Gilmore,  the character peppered with all the innocence, knowing and potential that will cause your heart to ache. Indeed, all of the performances are jaw-dropping in their balance of tension, humour and tragedy, from Ruth McCabe’s rock and roll, broken-down heart, to Donna Patrice’s more than meets the eye, ‘in-your-face’ honesty , and Sinead O’Riordan’s fatalistic delicacy and spiritualism.

Author John MacKenna’s lyrical yet bruising play is in good hands with the women of this mesmerizing ensemble, and yes, the symbolism of the shoes will resonate with any woman lucky enough to catch this production.  The author’s insightful exploration of the disappeared, from an alternative viewpoint that will play you like a yo-yo to beat the bejaysus and cajole your emotions as you go on the fateful journeys of four compelling characters, is a seamless production. Each character is portrayed to such a degree of truth that you feel like you know them all personally, or, at least, you would like to know them all personally.

So bittersweet, so heart-breaking, so full of pathos and yet such fine humour  ‘Breathless’ is also guaranteed to cause more than a few belly laughs. Directed by IFTA Award winning writer Iseult Golden, the production is currently running at Smock Alley Theatre: http://smockalley.com/breathless/  with further dates in planning, so check the website: http://www.orionproductions.org/ and GO SEE IT!

The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Theatre: The Woolgatherer…putting skin in the game.

I don’t write about every play or film that I see. And of the ones I do write about, it’s more for the impact the work has had on me personally, rather than for any critiquing or reviewing of it. Recently, I went along to the Blue Moon Theatre Company production of the Irish Premier of ‘The Woolgatherer’ written by Emmy award-winning American playwright, William Mastrosimone.

Starring Sinead O’Riordan and Michel Hough, and directed by Dave Byrne, the play, set in Philadelphia, is a two-act, up-close and intimate portrayal of Rose and Cliff; the former being a fragile and highly sensitive candy-shop assistant, consumed and scarred by her history of mental health issues, and the latter,  a disappointed, long-distance trucker, with a cynical, wise-cracking edge that belies his empathic core.

Waiting for his truck to be fixed, Cliff just wants some fun and a bed for the night, preferably with Rose in it. That is, until he gets drawn in under the skin of this complex, highly strung, yet sweet and innocent young woman, and his earlier wants reveal a deeper need.

What struck me about the performances was the physicality and intensity of the actors as they absorbed the traits of Rose and Cliff. To the point of exhaustion, the audience were pulled into the lives of two wounded warriors, one pushing, one pulling, yet both being drawn in the same direction. Rose’s status quo could be summed up in the following lines, spoken in the midst of a heart-breaking monologue…and there was white feathers on the water. And the water was real still. And there was big swirls of blood. And the birds were real still. Their beaks alittle open. Legs broke. Toes curled. Still. Like the world stopped…

And from it, a sense of her trauma and neurosis, and the loneliness that engulfs her life, emerges.

Mastrosimone wrote of the play, that Rose dreamed of a prince of sorts, a kindred spirit who would one day walk into her life and liberate her from the imprisoning memory…a theme as old as time, and yet, in this instance, told with a refreshing, sometimes comedic and always riveting energy. Her prince does indeed appear, a hulking great specimen of humanity, and beyond the wisecracks and the cynicism, a pathos begins to ooze slowly from Cliff as Rose’s layers of fear and insecurities are slowly peeled away…

At its core, the Woolgatherer is a contemporary love story, told in a very unsentimental way, and dealing with the warts-and-all intricacies of two complex, everyday people, which is extremely satisfying. And if you listen carefully, beneath the lines and under the skin of these accomplished performances, you will go away with lots to think on, as I did.

The Woolgatherer runs in The New Theatre from 1st – 13th April. For more information go to www.thenewtheatre.com

Featured image is the copyright of Anita Kulon. 2013