Close to the Sun – Smock Alley – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review

Close to the Sun – Smock Alley – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review by Frank L

Dates Sep 13-17 @ 20:30 – Tickets €16/€14 conc.
Duration 90 mins – Other performance Sep 17 @ 13:00
Venue: Smock Alley Theatre 1662

Apart from drink as a bond between Australians and the Irish, both cultures have a well articulated mythological past. Ancient and current mythologies underlie this contemporary story of a family happening. Colin (Jed Murray) is an immigrant Irishman originally from Donegal that has settled in Perth in Western Australia. He is about to marry Sophie (Mary Murray). They both are in their thirties and have experienced life. However, their comfortable plans are made less certain when Rory (Neill Fleming), a brother of Colin, arrives unannounced from Ireland. It quickly transpires that he is penniless, without an Australian work permit and has fled Ireland for a variety of reasons.

Then there is Oisin (Edwin Mullane), Colin and Rory’s married brother, who has kids and is the intended best man for the wedding. He has a desire to go back home to Ireland with his wife and kids. He is not comfortable in this new world and hankers for “home”. Another member of this Irish ex-patriot community, is a young Dublin jackeen, Largo (Sean Doyle) who is living a fun, carefree, boozy life as the cares of the world have not yet impeded on his existence. Australian muscle is provided by Frankie (Michael Bates), a red corpuscled Ozzie who comes from the Crocodile Dundee school of Australian life.  Finally, there is Sophie’s niece, Alexis, (Toni O’Rourke) who knows a thing or two about life and is well able to look after herself in a male dominated world but she has her standards.

It is fast moving. It is at times bawdy, even plain crude, but also funny as it presents a world which works hard to enjoy the little luxuries of life.  Each of the individuals has hopes and fears for their future. What provides real vigour is the Australian grittiness of it all. Bates brings to the proceedings a wonderful in your face, live life for the moment attitude to the part of Frankie. He says it as he sees it. There is a magnetism about his performance. O’Rourke too gives a performance which demonstrates a great Australian disregard for superficial European manners. While Mary Murray, handles two conflicting emotions namely a strong desire to marry with a call a spade a spade directness which cuts to the chase. Their Australian characters bring a perspective rarely seen on the Irish stage. The Irish parts because they are more familiar are less captivating even if Rory’s past contains elements which would give the salacious press a field day.

The set consists of two smallish, given the size of the stage, trellis like fences which give the impression that outdoors and indoors are not clearly defined. Given the heat of the Perth climate, this ambiguity is appropriate. As the preparations for a wedding usually involve a great number of trimmings there are, of necessity, a large number of props which come and go and are efficiently handled on and off the stage by the cast.

What is out of the ordinary is when Bates, Doyle and Mullane, at various times, rather than play their individual parts, each dons a head band on to which is attached a single powerful torch. They then appear from different parts of the stage and act like a chorus. The light cast by the three torches create an eerie and uncomfortable ambience on the stage. This unsettling atmosphere fits well the uncertainties surrounding the wedding preparations.

This is an ambitious play and for the Dublin Fringe it is on a large scale. It lasts for 90 minutes without an interval. Currently there are many young emigrants from all over Ireland living in Australia and indeed in Perth in particular. This play may help their families to understand better some of the complexities of their new lives.  It is a play of the moment.  It therefore deserves a wider audience than that of Dublin merely and should be seen in places like Donegal from where, in this instance, the three brothers originated.

Close to the Sun – Written by Philip Doherty

Close to the Sun – The Corps Ensemble

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