Before – Civic Theatre – Review by Simon Jewell
Before by Fishamble Company – Review 15th February
Before is the latest instalment from Pat Kinevane and Fishamble Theatre Company, the team that brought us Forgotten, Underneath and the Olivier Award-winning Silent. Before tells the story of Pontius, “after the Pilot fella,” a middle-aged man from the midlands of Ireland who has a deep loathing of musicals. He is in Dublin to buy a gift in Clerys on the day before it closes, for his twenty-one-year-old daughter, whom he has not seen for nearly twenty years. Before is ultimately a story of barriers and irreconcilable differences, as Pontius struggles with the alienation of seeing his daughter grow up.
It is a truly breathtaking performance from Kinevane, yet again. His ability to not only captivate his audience with every breath and emotion but to get to the depth of the trauma within our deepest human emotions is remarkable. The narrative is made up of musical songs and dance, modestly performed by Kinevane, that pay homage to the musical era. Kinevane is a master of flipping the switch between those tender, cherished moments, then suddenly breaking into catastrophic trauma and fledging anguish. The references to Clerys store, Jim Larkin and the rights of the workers, and the Irish men and women who died for this country add subtext to a slightly disjointed narrative.
Jim Culleton’s direction is, at times, creative brilliance, bridging together technology and storytelling of the character of Pontius so poignantly. Emma O’Kane’s choreography is stylised and creative, yet never truly elevates the emotion of the piece to a deeper artistic interpretation. The musical interludes, composed by Denis Clohessy and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, are beautifully composed and create a vaudeville-esque hilarity that subverts and cleverly plays with the idea that a musical can be about anything, even death. As Pontius straps on a white-pistol holster, buckles up his shoes and tap dances his sentiments that, “the strangest shit will pop up in a musical,” we get the feeling that it really does. However, as a technical device, this was somewhat overplayed within this production and failed to carry the emotional weight of the latter, more delicately powerful scenes.
And it is within these scenes that Kinevane has you feeling every single ounce of it. His thunderous, tortured voice encapsulates the pure emotion of a father who is so emotionally unravelled from being torn apart from his daughter’s upbringing. Built up with so much rage, Kinevane collapses on the stage, the pain and suffering of poor Pontius reveals a much unspoken and critical issue in society: of fathers who are completely ignored from their parental roles. It speaks for the numbers of fathers who are unjustly denied access to the lives of their sons and daughters, and how that can manifest in such a rage and soul-destroying anguish that can lead to countless men who commit suicide every year. Near the final scenes of the play, Pontius carries out a white dress and hangs it upon a wire. The moving symbolic gesture of the lost years of seeing his daughter is encapsulated by such a powerfully emotive image. As the dress slowly spins around, Pontius stares up at the daughter who has grown up without him.
As a production, Before attempts something bold and daring. It deals with a much unspoken topic that speaks out for the many men that have been silenced and marginalised by society and its designated domestic roles. The post-show discussion was filled with open discussions and questions from the audience about Kinevane’s writing, his methods, and his ability to lay it all on the stage. However, the discussion quickly evolved into some members of the audience sharing their own personal stories of unjust separation from parents and the trauma and guilt that ensued. Kinevane sat humbled and listened to audience members open up their own wounds, whilst also conveying utter gratitude for speaking about something that is not so openly discussed in society. It was such a cathartic experience, to hear these powerful stories that were bravely shared by members of the audience. Stories that spoke of personal details in dealing with the trauma of separation, the vulnerability of being marginalised and how theatre can be a medium of bridging the gap and speaking for those that feel left out or forgotten. We all left the theatre with so much to think about, so much to be thankful for and so much to appreciate from this performance. Pat Kinevane is a truly remarkable performer, whose ability to reach into the darkest depths of human emotion and speak out for those marginalised in society is what elevates him as a masterful storyteller.
Written & Performed by Pat Kinevane
Directed by Jim Culleton
Composed by Denis Clohessy
Costume styled by Catherine Condell
Choreographed by Emma O’Kane
Music performed by RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Conducted by Cathal Synnott
Photography by Ger Blanch
Stage Managers Tara Doolan & Ger Blanch
Dramaturgy by Gavin Kostick
Produced by Eva Scanlan
With the voices of Clelia Murphy as the Announcer, Kez Kinevane as the Guard, and Alex Sharpe as Aster