Test Dummy – Theatre Upstairs – Review by Frank L.
In an insightful programme note, Daly tells how a teacher once told her “that visual art is the closest medium to playwriting in form as it is about bodies in a space”. Though she did not accept it at the time she did not forget it. Test Dummy is her attempt “to take an abstract look at a body and its many experiences. It is not necessarily meant to be understood but felt”.
In order to bring to fruition on stage these ideas Daly has employed as director the skills of Louise Lowe of Anu fame; the body is that of Caitriona Ennis, small in height, but large in presence. The venue is Theatre Upstairs.
Theatre Upstairs has a new lay out. It is similar to that of a college chapel with the audience seated in parallel rows facing each other with the narrow space in between being the stage. The principal prop is a well-used fridge of some considerable age in which resides various containers whose contents would appear to be mature. The set generates the aura of a seedy bedsit. Daly slovenly dressed in tee shirt and trousers stands still at one end of the stage. She holds a piece of toast. After some time she takes a bite. She then sits by the fridge and sniffs the milk. She starts to reveal what is on her mind. She is thinking of her past. Her feelings in relation to her physical contacts from an early age.
The prose, while not containing any arcane or awkward words, is challenging. Phrases are repeated or recur in whole or in part. But it is not all words, as Ennis uses her body at times, which is expressive of her innermost being. The piece makes substantial demands on the actor and Ennis rises impressively to the challenge.
At the end of this intense 45 minute monologue, Daly, Ennis and Lowe had combined to create an awareness of feelings of fear and desire which a young female had experienced. The intensity of Ennis as she brought into the open these senses was absorbing. On leaving the theatre there was a strong sensation of having been in the presence of something awkward, not easily understood. Something that haunts the brain like an abstract painting of substance. Something that will return to the forefront of the brain. A thing of value.
Caitriona Ennis / CAST
Caitríona Daly / WRITER
Louise Lowe / DIRECTOR
Laura Honan / SET DESIGN
Cillian McNamara / LIGHTING DESIGN
Carl Kennedy / SOUND DESIGN
Sorcha NíFhloinn / COSTUME DESIGN
Aine O’Sullivan / PRODUCER
Ste Murray / PHOTOGRAPHY + MARKETING DESIGN