A Boy Called Nedd – Theatre Upstairs – Review by Frank L.
Written by Emily Gillmor Murphy
Dates / Times: 02 June 2015 – 13 June 2015 – 7.00PM / Tuesday – Saturday
1.00PM (matinee) / Wednesday + Saturday
This is contemporary Dublin for those still stuck in school but already their hormonal interests have long surpassed the need to know anything about algebra, Irish or any other subject which the school curriculum can offer. The cast of five (2 boys, 3 girls) are each, although all living at home, already to some extent set adrift from their parental influence, which is at best spasmodic. The girls are into looking good in order to score with boys and the boys are full of the bravado of talking about scoring rather than actually performing. Each of them lacks confidence which demonstrates itself in rapid mood swings. In addition, Nedd (Conall Keating) is trying to handle the recent suicide of his older brother Ben.
There is a clever backdrop of square photographs interspersed with two or three drawers in which the limited number of props are stored. For most of the performance the five actors stand in various formations facing the audience. At the end of a scene they reconfigure with military precision as if they were soldiers on a parade ground. Some of the most successful scenes are those which take place in the classroom. With audible whispers they catch each other’s attention. It works extraordinarily well as it reminds the audience that they are all still school goers regardless of their sexual longings or bad language. It is difficult to remember their youth in the dance scene when dressed to the nines the girls are preening in the ladies in front of a mirror and the fellas are obsessed with being seen to be successful in their pursuit. These emerging adults are at one level already experienced in the vicissitudes of life but each to a certain extent has travelled too fast. This is particularly true of Nedd who grapples with his brother’s suicide on top of all the other problems which a young man of 17 or so must face.
The characters of Nedd, Alice (Amilia Stewart), Anto (Liam Heslin), Niamh (Jasmine Brady) and Sophie (Aislinn O’Byrne) are different in tone and each of the actors conveys a distinctive personality even if for most of the time they are dressed in their school gear. Throughout there are some fine comic touches which come unexpectedly which increases their effect. But for all the hormones bumping off each other with such force, this play reminds us of the complicated challenges the young face in 2015 in Dublin. Interestingly in this play, drugs are not one of those challenges.