Vardo – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review


Vardo runs at the Dublin Theatre Festival until October 12th.

The final piece of the puzzle, this is the last part of the Monto cycle. The series of four immersive plays were based in a particular part of Dublin which was know as Monto, around the Talbot/ Foley street area. The first part was Laundry, which was set in the hugely atmospheric confines of the old Magdalene laundry on Sean McDermott Street. I remember feeling browbeaten after the experience. It was a wild ride, seeing the positives and many negatives of the area. There was an initial intimidation factor about the experience. You don’t understand the rules of engagement with the actors and there’s a feeling that anything can happen.

After seeing the three other parts of the cycle and a good chunk of the Thirteen series from last year’s Fringe festival, the fear factor has long since been eliminated. There is a law of diminishing returns with this type of theatre and your initial experiences are far more dramatic than the later ones. Your heart doesn’t quite pump the way it did first time around. This is not to say that the experience is any less interesting, just that it is now about the story and acting, like any other piece of theatre.

I won’t give too much of the plot away, other than to say you cover a lot of ground, sometimes on foot and sometimes in the back of a car. The piece is deeply rooted in the present, and aims to let you see the various communities that now live in the area, with the Polish and Nigerian community featuring. The main focus is on prostitution and its current business model. From talking to the other people who were at the same performance, we all had quite distinct experiences and spent different amounts of time with the characters. The actors will ask you questions and engage with you to a degree, but always pull away from genuine interaction. They are stuck in the same cycle, unable to break free and there is an element of plot for them to deliver.

There are various set pieces in the event and some of them are more successful than others. At its best, it was very impressive, while other elements felt a little too similar to what has gone before. The final video piece brings the various strands together and allows the viewer to remember what has gone before. It is certainly one of the most memorable theatre projects that I’ve seen in Ireland and with their recent trip to Manchester, they are starting to expand their horizons. It will be fascinating to see what they deliver next.

Find out more about Anu productions here.

Vardo runs at the Dublin Theatre Festival until October 12th. It is sold out, if you try, you never know!

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