Dirty Laundry written and directed by Chris Edmund – Review by Frank L.
Last autumn Chris Edmund brought a production of ‘The Swell Party‘ from Western Australia which was performed by his students at Smock Alley. While in Dublin he spent time with the students of the Gaiety School of Acting (class of 2014) and explored with them “the notion of Home and what it meant to all” to them. He returned to Australia and created “Dirty Laundry” using the discussions which he had had in Dublin and now returns to direct the self-same students in the piece which they helped to inspire and create.
The stage is almost bare except for a very finely constructed steel tree, consisting of two ladders bound together with steel branches projecting at 45 degrees, which is situate in a shallow circle of water on the left hand side and a screen on which images are from time to time projected. At the beginning of the play there are 18 chairs placed as if two rows of seats on an aircraft. The cast sit in the ‘aircraft’ and suffer a catastrophic incident. Their childhoods flash through their minds and their homes. There are six different scenarios: the Farm, the Immigrants, the Adoption, the Drug House, Bacon’s studio and Death and Lasagne. Each is very different in ambiance and given the minimal amount of props, the actors have to conjure up the particular atmosphere of each scene relying on their own skills. The scenes are interspersed with each other so the stage is in an almost constant state of flux as the action moves between the different homes.
Homes have their secrets. Outsiders do not know what happens behind the front door. What does lurk behind is the “Dirty Laundry” which lies unwashed, entangled and strewn piece meal behind each front door, so far as some of the homes have a front door at all. Edmund creates an enthusiasm in his young cast which is palpable and there is a considerable energy and skill on display in the cast. It is challenging work as some actors have to create characters which are far older or younger than they are, with all the attendant difficulties that creates.
In addition the scene changes, which are many, are carried out with aplomb so the resultant feeling is one of a finely tuned troupe who applies its individual talents with deft enthusiasm to very different scenarios. There are many nice touches not least the use of Francis Bacon’s studio as “a home” and placing it in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Parnell Square where it now in fact resides, as if Bacon lived and had always lived in the gallery rather than in a mews in South Kensington, was a delicious twist.
There was a great deal of talent on stage and many of the cast had participated in Rough Magic’s production of “the Critic” in last year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. Therefore the actors are stepping out into the world of theatre with some experience behind them and their work deserves to be seen. It is an engaging evening.
Dirty Laundry runs at Smock Alley Theatre until June 28th.