Temptress – New Theatre – Review by C.K. MacNamara
Oct 26th – Nov 7th @ 7.30pm
Tickets: €15 (€12 conc.)
Full of existential angst and nihilistic overtones, to call Philip St John’s dark comedy an ‘unconventional ghost story’ feels like a misnomer. Centering on the attempted intervention of a paranormal psychiatrist called to a decrepit Wicklow home by a garbled plea for help by its catatonic resident Noel, who claims to be plagued by a Patrick Swayze Ghost-esque spectral romance of escalating consequences.
The back-and-forth narrative is as tense and clever as can be expected from the award winning St John. The humour may be hit or miss, but it is the second act shift that propels the play into the sublime. The premise is set with the first scene, the remainder dedicated to teasing at and peeling away the layers of the characters, revealing alterior motives and deep anxieties – suddenly these men being in this place is not so coincidental.
The set design of Lisa Krugel is a smoke choked spectacle, with layers of peeling multicoloured wallpaper topped with a chimney ominously boarded up and stuffed with newspapers. The Costumes too add volumes to the dialogue; Noel jitters away wrapped in a shawl as his interrogator Pete saunters about in a Noirish trenchcoat popping Rolos into his mouth.
But for all the setup and narrative, the dialogue ultimately lives or dies by its performances. Paul Kealyn shoulders the spectrum of emotion as Pete; gradienting from a satirical detective template who takes an eerily professional pleasure in his work, to a suddenly broken man juggling his own life. Matthew O’Brien plays initially second fiddle as the near mute quivering wreck Noel, before a sudden 180 spin into a thermonuclear tirade that commands the stage.
What we have then is a play that ticks all the boxes and refuses to be pinned down into a definitive genre, skirting the spectrum of dark comedy and drip feeding themes of existentialism and the brooding dread of mortality, until the previously laughing audience is witnessing an exchange of suicide notes and a ‘will they won’t they’ standoff – a masterclass production far deeper and thought provoking than the ‘spooktacular’ Halloween context it operates in.
Writer: Philip St John
Director: Matthew Ralli
Cast: Matthew O’Brien, Paul Kealyn
Producer: Melissa Nolan