The Lost O’Casey – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
The Lost O’Casey (Out Of The Abbey) – Anu and Abbey Productions
There was a moment when I was following a young woman covered in blood to the flats at the top of Parnell Square, that you only get in an Anu production. She was filled with talk despite her physical condition; a cut lip and a bloodshot eye. She was telling me of Elf, a young man from the flats that committed suicide the day before. She had a wreath with his name on it which she gave me to carry. This gives you an idea of a typical scene in this wide-ranging production.
The audience are only four in number and each gets a fairly unique experience. You are separated into couples early on and then separated once more. There is something intimidating about a one to one experience with an actor. You feel like they should drop out of character or wait for someone else to arrive but it all continues.
The production is largely about a block of flats that are destined to be demolished to create something called the cultural quarter. A new area of Dublin that will be more in keeping with a modern vision of Ireland. The old inhabitants of these flats will be moved to another location, somewhere not quite as obvious. This play gives you an insight into their lives. We hear talk of when the flats were being built, what the people had hoped for and then see the reality many years later.
The economics of theatre always confound me. A month of rehearsals for a week-long run doesn’t make sense at the best of times, but this is a different level. For most of the production, you are alone with two actors, which says nothing about those that slowly follow the actors on the streets to make sure pedestrians don’t interfere with proceedings. This joint production between the Abbey and Anu Productions really is a lavish affair despite the world it is exploring.
The characters you meet are what draws you in. These are the folks you would normally put your head down and walk quickly to avoid. They have wonderful names like Boxty and Maggot, but Sarah Morris’ Nannie is the centrepiece of the production. The play is loosely based around a rarely produced play by O’Casey called ‘Nannie’s Night Out’. In this work, Nannie is a young homeless woman who despite her situation seems endlessly positive.
This production is Anu at their best, exploring the issues of inner-city Dublin and letting you see behind closed doors. It would be fascinating to know how much work goes on behind the scenes to get access to their different locations. While they will probably never beat letting an audience see the insides of the Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott street, each new production gives you an insight into a different world. I may have passed these particular flats a hundred times but never thought I would see inside them. The production allows an unusual intimacy between the audience and the performer. You sit and watch a woman combing her hair in her bedroom while she talks about her missing husband or many other similar small events. It creates moments that will last with you. It’s a production that reminds you of why you like theatre.
Cast and Creative Team
Directed by Louise Lowe
Cast includes: Liam Heslin, Leanna Cuttle, Gillian McCarthy, Daniel Monaghan, Sarah Morris, Michael Glenn Murphy, Robbie O’Connor, Thomas O’Reilly, and Matthew Williamson
Set Design: Owen Boss
Assistant Set Design: Dylan Farrell
Lighting Design: Ciaran Bagnall
Costume Design: Niamh Lunny
Music and Sound Design: Carl Kennedy
Movement Director: Sue Mythen