Tales from Briar Hall written by Katie McCann
Edward (Ste Murray) has found solace from an early age in the depths of the woods, far away from the bullying of his seven older brothers. He spends his time with animals, mice in particular. He stumbles upon a spooky house with the thorny name of Briar Hall. He enters and finds himself in the tentacles of Daisy (Katie McCann) who lives in the ramshackled house with her guardian Aunt who is a disciplinarian and a creature of habit of the most extreme type. Daisy is a fantasist and cooped up in Briar Hall she has read far too much of the Bronte sisters, Emily in particular and imagines herself as Kathy Earnshaw. More unlikely she sees Edward as her Heathcliffe. Once he enters Briar Hall she has him in her clutches and she is going to ensure that he remains. Edward is not exactly going anywhere in any case so he is quite content to stay encircled by Daisy’s fantasies. To ensure this happy state of affairs continues they need to make Briar Hall their own quirky little love nest.
McCann gives a sure footed performance particularly when she indulges herself in a scene from Charlotte Bronte’s great novel Wuthering Heights. But she is able also to keep the audience alert in the more prosaic scenes such as when she spouts out the details of her little daily rituals so as to ensure that there are no unnecessary surprises in the day to day happenings of Briar Hall. For example she monitors the use of lamps so that she knows to the day when any particular light bulb will expire. She shows a suitable amount of dismay when one expires some days before its anticipated demise. Ste Murray has the more difficult task of making Edward who is without charisma or romance, in fact plain dull, to be a male figure of the sexual allure and power of Heathcliffe which he obviously is not. This difficult juxtaposition he carries off with a fair degree of aplomb assisted by the fact that Daisy is so keen to have a man, any man, that anything in trousers, even short trousers, will do. There is needless to say a paucity of any male trade sauntering past the front door of Briar Hall so that gives Edward an inherent advantage.
The set is splendid with a load of books of great dustiness arranged over three very long shelves which run the full width of the stage. A snarling stuffed fox along with other bric-a-brac makes you fully aware you are in a place which is far distant from the world of IKEA and its consumerist values. The sonorous voice of John Kavanagh as narrator which is interspersed through the action adds a subtle element of astute anxiety and anticipation to what is a location of uneasy spookiness. This is a piece out of the ordinary and well worth seeing for its otherness.
Review by Frank L
Tales from Briar Hall at Theatre Upstairs
DATES: Tuesday, August 12th – Saturday, August 23rd
Katie McCann – Writer / DAISY
Ste Murray – Visual Design / EDWARD
John Kavanagh – The Voice of THE NARRATOR
Jeda de Brí – Director / Photographer
Ashleigh Dorrell – Producer / Production Design
Simon Burke – Production Design
Derek Conaghy – Theme Composer / Audio Recordings
Aoife Fealy – Production Design
Laura Honan – Lighting Design / Production Design