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Monday, 4 October, 2010

Theatre-going as therapy

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival 2010 – Project Arts Centre (Cube) – 6pm (60 minutes) – September 30-October 3 (show seen September 30)

This largely monologue piece is about how one woman healed herself emotionally by simply going to the theatre 565 times over a period of about seven years, seeing about 80 plays a year.

The story is very much Marie O’Rourke’s own personal history, and she lays herself bare in terms of her difficult marriage, her relationship with her father and the emotional issues which both had generated.

About seven years ago, a doctor suggested that instead of the gamut of conventional and alternative therapies, that she take up an ‘interest’, such as going to the theatre.  She tried it and it suddenly started working better for her than anything she had tried up to then.

She found that in recognising herself in characters on stage, she was able to come out of herself and relate to her difficulties.  She also found the act of going to a theatre a moment of peace and calm, where she didn’t have to ‘perform’ for anybody.  Of course, it now appears that she has come full circle, to the extent that she is ready to be the stage performer herself.

While O’Rourke is not a professionally-trained actor, she has a natural story-telling ability which holds the audience’s attention effortlessly.  The fact that her story is clearly a real rather than fictional one helps to make it fascinating – it’s a form of ‘reality’ theatre, without it feeling exploitative in the way that ‘reality TV’ can be.

Even though she occasionally stumbled on a sentence during the performance reviewed here, which was the opening night, it does not cause any fear or panic and she laughs it off, without interrupting the flow of her story.

Stage manager Duncan Molloy sits at a table behind her and contributes the occasional line of dialogue, doubling also as a visible prompter.  His voice at times provides a useful objective counterpoint to what is an intensely personal story.

However, some more physicality could greatly enhance the piece, as O’Rourke appears to be almost confined to a triangular pattern of moving from standing to sitting to occasionally playing a small piano in the background.

Her story moves around in time, jumping from middle age to childhood and back again.  But this actually works well, as the later parts of the story delve deeper into the reasons why she had ended up in emotional distress in the first place, rather than being stuck to a strictly chronological timeframe.  Sufficient information is given for the audience to construct by itself the chronology of her life and the potential confusion of moving about in time is avoided.

Cast Credits: Performer – Marie O’Rourke.  Occasional Dialogue – Duncan Molloy.

Company Credits: Conceived and directed by – Una McKevitt.  Creative Producer – Áine Beamish.  Set & Lighting Design – Ciarán O’Melia.  Costume Design – Kiki Beamish.  Music & Sound Design – Phillip Stewart.  Stage Manager – Duncan Molloy.  Video Viral – Alan Early.  Photography – Lucy Clarke.

(c) Colman Higgins

30 September 2010

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