Running with Dinosaurs – New Theatre – Review by Bridget Deevy
Running With Dinosaurs by Nadine Flynn – Apr 17th – Apr 29th @ 7.30pm
Running With Dinosaurs is a story about family; the family you are born into, the family you choose and the family that is a community. In her professional debut, playwright Nadine Flynn explores this through the lens of a working class experience, depicting a family living on the poverty line in Dublin’s inner city.
Jay, (Daniel Monaghan) is a young man, searching for purpose outside the flat he shares with his mother Siobhan, (Eimear Keating) and his younger siblings Yvonne, (Aislinn Ní Uallacháin) and Sammy, (Wesley Doyle). As the play opens, we see Jay railing against the fact that his grandfather Frank, (Tom Leavey), is moving into a nursing home. His anger at this situation is a motivating force in wanting to claim some autonomy in his own life. Yvonne’s boyfriend Deco, (Rory Dignam), is a Garda in training who offers Jay a dubious path to something more meaningful. Jay’s subsequent embroilment in a world that takes him away from his family is counterpointed by Sammy’s commitment to a burgeoning music career and Yvonne’s determination to not repeat the mistakes of her mother.
Lee Wilson’s direction makes use of the limited space in the New Theatre, creating juxtaposed images that bridge scenes, depicting the passage of time and giving the play an interesting filmic quality, in parts. Mary Sheehan’s set gives us minimalist, geometric lines in which the characters reside, firmly trapping them inside their flat: a one size fits all box. Sound by Bill Woodland is a shaping presence in the play, while his lighting design reflects the minimal, grey, domesticity of the set.
While the central plot line of the story revolves around Jay and Deco’s encounter with gang culture, the play is more successful in the smaller, subtler moments; a tender visit from granddaughter to grandfather, the everyday rivalry between brothers, the silent deterioration of a parent into alcoholism, a young woman dancing to block out the frustration of her circumstances.
There are moments here too that seek to challenge perceived assumptions about working class communities. When Deco tells Yvonne that he wants to take her away from the flats, she responds with “why does everyone think I want to leave here?” Yvonne wants a better life than her mother had, but she doesn’t want to leave her mother, her family or her community.
The ambition of Running with Dinosaurs – to represent more diverse voices on our stage – is one that is needed and welcome, and while the characters are by turns wise-cracking and tender, they ultimately struggle under the weight of an awkward plot line, which dominates the latter part of the play.