You Could Be Us – Smock Alley Theatre – Review by Frank L
Until Nov 21st at Smock Alley Theatre
Fregoli have become regular visitors to Smock Alley in recent years but this is their first visit to the Main Space. The play has four characters; Yule (Jarlath Tivnan), Catherine (Eilish McCarthy), Billy (Peter Shine) and Ursula (Kate Murray). Jarlath Tivnan also wrote the script but according to an interview with Peter Shine the entire cast, as well as the director Maria Tivnan, contributed to the script when they were workshopping the piece but “…at the heart of it all it’s Jarlath’s baby, his story and what he wants to tell.”
Each of the characters has indeed a story to tell. All have a madcap mix of comic and black moments. Social media is central to the stories being told so self-image and the inevitable bullying feature prominently. However, Tivnan’s black sense of humour manages to extract laughter from the audience, albeit at times nervously, at the outrage of what is being told. Tivnan keeps the stories rooted in the mundane world of Christian names of a saintly hue, grim reports of farm accidents, the disfiguring effects of skin diseases, the nostalgia of Calvita cheese, the comfort of a home in the Claddagh and a host of other references which are familiar. However, the stories told even if they have elements of the commonplace have bizarre and black elements which are leavened by Tivnan’s zany comic touch.
The four actors appeared together in the Pleasure Ground (2015) and they buzz around each other with split-second timing. They are impressive in their own solo parts but also when they are playing in ensemble. They tell their life stories and as in real life, the stories alter with the telling. The first act gives the first rendition of the stories and the second act those stories are revisited with the assistance of Billy who appears at the end of the first act. The second act is entirely different in time and tempo from the first. The play lasts just over two hours with an interval. Some of the sequences last too long and impetus is lost and in particular the Emoji sequence at the end of the first act added little to the piece.
These are four talented actors and they have created a worthwhile show which has many changes in mood and rhythm. There are many bright and interesting ideas in this production, possibly too many in some respects. Maybe the assistance of a trusted outsider to distil some of the sequences would have added to the overall strength of the piece. That said here is another thoughtful and smart production from Fregoli, not its best one, but it shows that Fregoli is an instigator of indigenous theatre of a creative hue.
Produced by Fregoli Theatre
Written by Jarlath Tivnan
Directed by Maria Tivnan
Set Design by Jack Scullion
Sound Design by Michelle Fingleton and Niall Clarke
Original Music by Singer /Songwriter Tracy Bruen