Absolute Beginners – New Theatre – Review by Keith Thompson
Absolute Beginners @ The New Theatre til 22nd July, 7.30PM
Carrie is angry. Ewan is anxious. They both need help. With Absolute Beginners, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot bring us a Romeo and Juliet for the age of anxiety. Facing their own demons, and a hostile world, can these two find comfort in each other, or at the very least, in a pet hamster?
Our lovers, Ewan, a ‘southside bastard,’ and Carrie, a ‘northside grizzly-bear minx,’ meet, not at a lavish party, but in the prosaic surroundings of a counsellor’s office. Following a bad break-up Ewan is trying to keep it together at work, where his social anxiety is becoming increasingly problematic. Meanwhile, Carrie’s doctor is hoping to solve her anger issues by having her take care of a pet hamster. As the two get frustrated with their therapy they are drawn together; two damaged souls finding an imperfect, expletive laden, sometimes violent but very real connection.
Andrea Bolger (Carrie) and Sam Monaghan (Ewan) are natural fits for their roles; he a coiffured, suited ‘totes’ D4 type, she a loose-tongued Finglas native. There is a natural contrast in their energies between her manic, uncontrollable anger and his still, internally corrosive anxiety. They are ably supported by Lisa Tyrell and Anne Duffy as the respective doctors who both bring a sensitivity and sympathy to their roles, counter-pointing the irascibility of their clients.
Diane Crotty’s script displays numerous flashes of wit but it is a shame that too often these are buried under a string of unnecessary expletives. In a post Wolf of Wall Street world (2.81 f-words a minute!) to make swearing effective requires more than just an increase in frequency, volume or vehemence. Here, despite some notable exceptions, that creativity is too often lacking.
Crotty’s script though is let down more considerably by some poor staging choices. The director, Cian Ó’Ceallacháin, presents us with a string of mostly static scenes punctuated by a handful of split-screen vignettes which are neither detailed nor choreographed enough to progress the action or deepen our understanding of the characters. And when the climactic denouement finally comes, it is both rushed and messy, undermining its importance for the central characters.
The company have certainly managed to squeeze a great deal of humour from a concept that could have quickly become tired but the overall experience is unsatisfying and at 65 minutes we have not had enough time with our modern day Romeo and Juliet to fully invest in their world.