Debris – Smock Alley – Review
11 – 21 Apr | 8pm in The Boys’ School. 2:30pm matinees on Saturdays
Debris is a one act play written by English writer Dennis Kelly, who is well known for his TV work such as Channel 4’s Utopia and BBC’s Pulling, which he wrote alongside Sharon Horgan. He also surprisingly wrote Matilda the Musical with Tim Minchin, but Debris is quite far removed from the happy-go-lucky world of mainstream musicals. This is one of the writer’s earliest works and explores the dark topic of two young siblings struggling to make sense of the world.
Brother and Sister, Michael (Shane O’Regan) and Michelle (Clara Harte) have had a rather unusual childhood. Their mother died and they were brought up by their violent and alcoholic father! They have a loose grip on reality and several of their far fetched stories contradict each other. The opening scene tells of Michael watching his father committing suicide by the bizarre method of crucifixion. Michael describes the astonishing feat as his father manages to impale himself with nails through his hands and feet. The stories continue in a similar fashion with more unconventional snippets of their lives told by Michael or Michelle.
The back walls of the stage are covered in a coarse fabric which gives the Boy’s School quite a different look and feel. The usual benches have been replaced with chairs on two sides. The lighting is quite inventive, with spots, uplighting and a variety of other tricks used to make the piece visually impressive. Sarah-Jane Shiels is responsible for the light and set design and it works well despite its small budget.
This is a production by Reality:Check who recently won ‘Best Ensemble’ at the Irish Times Theatre Awards. The company set out to re-imagine works from contemporary writers and while Kelly may be an important modern writer, this work is a little too obscure to find a mainstream audience. It is a difficult play with a non-linear story and many surreal scenes. The most impressive thing about the production is the acting, with O’Regan and Harte embracing their unusual parts and playing them with a wide eyed innocence which resonates with the audience. They seem sincere despite telling their tall tales and that is what makes the production come to life.