NEON Western – Samuel Beckett Theatre – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review by David Minogue
Dates Sep 09 -10/13 -17 @ 20:00 – Tickets€16/ €14 conc.
Duration 90 mins – Other performance Sep 09 & 16 @ 16:00
Venue: Samuel Beckett Theatre
NEON Western – Samuel Beckett Theatre – Review
A sense of intrigue is instilled in the assembled audience before NEON Western even begins, as part of the action starts before the doors of the theatre are opened. The audience enters the venue of the Samuel Beckett Theatre as one group, so each viewer shares their first impression simultaneously. There is an element of chance to proceedings, as where you choose to stand will dictate what you see over the course of the 70 minutes that follow. NEON Western uses the setting of the Western genre and blends it with the atmosphere of a rave. It never fully explains why and what is happening and that is what makes it both engaging and bewildering.
The production company Conflicted Theatre has used audiences as part of the narrative in their previous productions, such as 18 to 35 and The Scarlett Letter. In NEON Western the audience is also placed at the centre of the action and narratives happen around them. When each character is initially presented to us they are either on display or emerge from the background.
The characters are types as depicted in the Western genre such as the Preacher (Áine Ní Laoighaire) who tells stories, taunts and encourages the audience. The revenge seeking Sheriff (Mark D’Aughton) is driven by violence which is a constant theme present throughout the performance. His displays of turbulent masculinity are contrasted in the character of Rainman (Adam Devereux) who is his own powder keg of emotions. While there are the good characters of Widow (Cara Christie) and Captive (Clara Harte), there is no specific protagonist. Each character projects their own story while circling those of the others. The most ambiguous character is Devil (George Hanover) who drifts around the various narratives like a cowgirl Barbarella. Each character’s identity is clearly defined through the costumes by Deirdre Dywer.
Throughout the performance, the characters walk directly through the audience so that our attention is moved to the various points of the action. The deft lighting coordination by Sarah-Jane Shiels makes this flow of direction possible. There is, however, a feeling when watching one story line that another is happening behind or even above you, which is what the production aims to achieve. The soundtrack composed by Peter Power has its own particular energy which effectively creates atmosphere and gives you the feeling of being inside the music itself. It is like being on a dance floor where some drama happens in front of you or in the corner of your eye. Because the audience is engaged in the stories of the characters the nightclub concept is present but never fully realised. At one stage drinks are dispensed amongst the audience which adds to the strangeness of the experience.
NEON Western plays like a surreal dream which the audience is invited to simply witness. Each person will have their own take on it. It is a twisted tale that will make you question what exactly you have experienced.
Created by Evan Lordan, Gavin McEntee & Peter Power
Story / Structure by Evan Lordan
Directed by Gavin McEntee
Design-Set & Costume: Deirdre Dywer
Design – Set & Lighting: Sarah-Jane Shiels
Cast Mark D’Aughton – SHERIFF
Adam Devereux – RAINMAN
George Hanover – DEVIL
Cara Christie – WIDOW
Áine Ní Laoighaire –PREACHER
Clara Harte – CAPTIVE
With the Mellow Tonics Choir