The Lesson – Pearse Theatre – Review

The Lesson Angi Acting

The Lesson – Review by Dan O’Neill.

The recent production of Eugene Ionesco’s ‘The Lesson’ by the comparatively recently formed AGNI Acting Studio had a number of marks to hit. How to bring a conceptually ‘Theatrical’ play to life, how to engage an audience, how to interpret a minor, modern classic and how to set down a marker for future productions. The three person cast passed all these tests with flying colours.

The play is a masterclass in absurdism and, to this reveiwer’s eye, theatre of cruelty, but it is far from an historical piece, with contemporary resonances of how language is distorted, controlled and colonised.

Joe Campbell excels as ‘The Professor’ giving a private lesson to a pupil that escalates into an horrific, murderous act. There is menace is this creepy performance (‘creepy’ being an apposite word for the character). Campbell takes on ‘the crazy’ with great skill and apparent ease. Carole Sauer is a wonder as the pupil; we see a character being physically and psychologically drawn in the killer’s web. Her stage presence reminds of Olwen Fouere; Sauer has a remarkable ability to use her body to express emotions, principally, in this case, fear. The third wheel, the maid ‘Maria’, played in drag by Paul Quinn Jr, raises the creepiness stakes. He adds more tension, absurdity and terror to the piece in a well-judged performance. There is humour but it is VERY dark.

Director and conservatory founder Hope Brown trained in the Focus theatre, Deirdre O’Connell’s legacy is profound and is in evidence in this hour long interpretation. Brown’s direction allows the cast to breathe and thrive; possibly, a sign of good director is that that focus isn’t on them but the cast. This is committed acting – both an actor’s and a writer’s piece; great credit must go to the Director for his interpretation of the play. This is a troupe that respects the method without being doctrinaire. Irish theatre needs more people like them and Agni are an important new voice for the Irish stage. Hat tips to stage crew too – this is really good, teamwork theatre.

The Pearse Theatre is a compelling small venue, well worth a visit anyway, but certainly worth visiting for AGNI’s next production, what’s sure to be a fascinating and intriguing Chekov season in June. This will be a must see.

“THE LESSON”, by Eugene Ionesco finished on April 26th.

Directed By Hope Brown

The Agni Acting Studio Conservatory

in association with the Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club “THE LESSON” receives a Week run at The Pearse Theatre

Translated by Donald Watson

Designed by Erin Lilly

Lighting by Paul Winters

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