The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Theatre: So who the fuck is the Motherfucker with the Hat?

He fuckin’ loves her, but suspects that his big, beautiful ‘whatever the fuck he just called her’ princess queen is cheating on him.

With a motherfucker with a hat!

On the ‘dry’ and on parole, Jackie has come home with a job today,  so life should be on the up-and-up for the ex-con [Andrew Lynch]. Some addictions are hard to break though, like his obsession with his old girlfriend and childhood sweetheart, Veronica [Sinead O’Riordan], a broad with some other addictions that need attention!

Jackie has ‘the voice of reason’ on his side however, in the guise of his chilled-out Rehab sponsor, Ralph D [Peter Gaynor] though Ralph is having problems with his neurotic, ball bustin’ honey [Laoisa Sexton] and she is dealin’ with some ‘caca’ of her own!

And then there’s Jackie’s ‘health freakin’ spirulina eatin’ cousin Julio [Rex Ryan] who’s been Jackie’s buddy since the playground years…and friendships made before the age of 25 are the only ones that count, right? ‘Cos all the others are just fuckin’ associations…

So who the fuck is the motherfucker with the hat?

Cussin’ flows a dime a dozen as friendship, trust and infidelity are explored through the bawling, brawling passionate narrative of The Motherfucker with the Hat. Written by award-winning New York playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Aoife Spillane-Hinks, the show features an energetic, ensemble of characters, each addicted to something, or someone…

Played with breath-taking gusto by a sublimely tuned-in cast, the show is fast-paced and the actors bristle with emotion, physicality and of course, the high-octane, alternatively poetic and fucked-up alliteration of the street. Whatever the cast of The Motherfucker with the Hat are on, I want some. Now do yourself a goddamn favour, go see the fuckin’ show!

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

The Librarian’s Cellar: At the Theatre: Oleanna…a tale of oppression?

I went along to see Company D’s production of David Mamet’s Oleanna, a provocative play that examines the system of higher education from the point of view of two characters, the university professor and the student, and the context of two human beings, existing in polar opposite life situations. It is a study of power, and in the context of a drama, how that power can shift with disastrous consequences.

Directed by Ruth Calder-Potts, the professor, John, played by David Scott, is socially, emotionally, and academically on a different plain to the student, Carol, played by Sinead O’Riordan. Despite all his good intentions as he attempts to teach Carol to learn for herself, John speaks out from the top of his ivory tower to Carol, albeit between the distractions of his chaotic personal life, and with an air of patronization that he is probably not even aware of.

Carol, on the receiving end of a plethora of language and academia that she is finding difficult to absorb, is asking for help; is looking for the answers that she can apply to her life, her experience and her difficult journey through life-long learning.

This simmering mix becomes a clash between two individuals with very different abilities to absorb and decode information that is coming at them from the other, which spirals into an intriguing study of not only how two human beings can grow to perceive one another, but also how they interpret the actions of each other. And how, once wronged by the other, can adopt with conviction their negative interpretations of the other’s behaviour, with explosive results.

It is a play that will leave you travelling home with your own internal discourse playing out. Was John right? Was Carol? Could they both be completely correct in their convictions, or could they both have got it so very wrong? And if so, why?

Any situation where one person exploits another or hinders their pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression. This is the view of Paulo Freire, 1921-1997, a critical theorist of education, who is also quoted as saying that “such a situation in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by false generosity.”

In the play, Carol reacts in her frustration in a manner that while shocking, may help to explain Freire’s viewpoint. We don’t know her past, but we get a sense of it; that is one of ongoing struggle…

From the moment we are born,  we all follow similar paths, arriving helpless, unable to care for ourselves, yet quickly and instinctively learning from whom we will be nourished and nurtured; where the food comes from, the protection, the caring of us, body and soul. If we are lucky, that nurturing will be a positive experience that will allow us to flourish, firstly as children with confidence, enquiring minds and a thirst for answers that we will seek and find. And secondly, as well-adjusted adults, ready for the challenges of our lives that continue our path of learning; ideally through our own methods of critical reflection, praxis and transformation.

But what if our journey is not the ideal? What if the circumstances of our existence result in an upbringing of carelessness, apathy, cruelty or violence that hinders development. Perhaps denying access to knowledge and the skills of autonomy and therefore, becoming one of oppression and disempowerment?

How might that manifest in any of us, if faced with a situation such as Carol’s…?

Company D’s production of Oleanna at the Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square West, came to an end last night. However,  I have no doubt that based on the spellbinding performances of Sinead O’Riordan and David Scott, the play will be back…so keep a look out and when the curtain rises again on this wonderful production, go see it!