What Put the Blood – Peacock Stage @ Abbey Theatre – Review
25 October – 4 November 2017
Photography by Patrick Redmond
The initial image of ‘What Put the Blood’ is quite unsettling. The two actors are already on stage as the audience arrives into the theatre. They sit at the very front of the stage tied to their chairs, as two brides in bloodied wedding dresses. The front of the stage is filled with steel hooks and chains and the back is barely visible through blood splattered plastic sheeting. It gives the impression that the cast members are held captive in an abattoir. There is heavy rock music playing as you take your seat. All quite unusual for a night at our National Theatre!
This is a new work written by Frances Poet, who is an award-winning Scottish playwright. The play is a reworking of Jean Racine’s Andromaque, if in a much reduced form, with only two cast members and an hour-long duration. The play is set in modern times in a world of gangland violence, with characters names such as Red and Hammer. The two actors tell their tales to an unseen audience, as if awaiting torture to force a confession or to reveal a secret!
The two actors embrace their parts well. Lucianne McEvoy plays Hermione as a controlled figure and the more reasonable of the two, while Julie Rodgers is a feral and wild Andromaque. The contrast between the two makes for a lively and fast moving production. While the two actors are on stage for the duration, there is no interaction between them. The story is told in the form of a couple of interwoven monologues, as the facts are slowly revealed. Initially, it is very hard to establish the relationship between the two actors and why they are being held, but slowly it all is revealed. The lighting design by Sinéad McKenna is also worthy of a mention and adds considerably to the production.
It is quite an unnerving set and style of delivery. The audience is made to work to follow the story and you do need to pay attention to the various character names. The story is an adrenalin fueled story of mobsters, reminiscent of Mark O’Rowe’s work. It is something we have seen many times before but it is unusual to see it told from a female perspective. While no actual violence takes place on stage the text launches you into the gangland underworld.
Hermione: Lucianne McEvoy
Andromaque: Julie Rodgers
Written by: Frances Poet
Directed & Designed by: Graham McLaren
Lighting Designer: Sinéad McKenna
Sound Designer: Matt Padden
Costume Designer: Katie Davenport
Associate Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Associate Dramaturg: Eleanor White
Production Manager: Cliff Barragry
Stage Manager: Leo McKenna
Assistant Stage Manager: Martina Kavanagh