48 – Smock Alley – Review by Frank L.
Mon 8 – Sat 13 Apr 2019 at 8pm in The Boys’ School
The Stardust fire on the night of 13th February 1981 was the largest fire in the history of the State which resulted in the death of 48 people and 214 more being seriously injured. It shocked the entire country and brought inevitable trauma to the families whose relatives and friends died or were injured in the conflagration.
No Desserts is a young theatre company of which the writer, Gemma Kane, is a member. Although the events which occurred in 1981 in the Stardust night club took place many years before she was born, Kane has chosen to concentrate on the lives of four friends before they went out on that fateful night to enjoy themselves.
The set design by Sinead Purcell was both resourceful and imaginative. The entire floor of The Boys’ School, Smock Alley was ’tiled’ in a carefully constructed ‘mosaic’ made from Guinness beer mats with the seating for the four actors being a collection of beer kegs. It created the right ambience. The director Clare Maguire utilised the qualities of the theatre to have the actors enter down the ramp which encompasses the space. They did so writhing through simulated smoke in the form of dry ice which not only resembles smoke but also the atmosphere of a night club.
The play recounts the young lives of Sarah Farrell (Gemma Kane), her boyfriend Tom Kane (Niall O’Brien), her friends Maggie Noone (Emily Fox) and James Gannon (Laurence Falconer). The play shows their likes and dislikes, their jobs or lack of jobs and their falling in and out of love with all the inevitable angst and passion that that entails. However, each actor has to play other characters which include Maggie’s Mam and Dad, Sarah’s Mam and Dad and two other friends. In addition there is music composed by Dylan Tonge Jones which forms an important part of the mix. In short, Gemma Kane set her cast a challenge of some considerable size in this her ‘first solo writing debut’.
The structure of the play worked exceedingly well as it concentrated on the ordinariness of the four young lives before the fire. These are lives full of slagging, comic remarks and boisterous fun. Kane and No Desserts show what their lives were like and leave to your imagination the rest.
The play brings into the spotlight the tragedy of ‘the Stardust Nightclub’ in a thoughtful manner. It is performed by a group of young actors who would be of an age similar to the various victims. They present these lives with zeal and commitment. The production is to be applauded not only for the seriousness of the topic chosen to be represented but also the manner in which it is presented which makes it more feasible to discuss openly the horrors of that night. Well done No Desserts – a piece of theatre, both serious and fun, well conceived and professionally executed.
48 – Written by Gemma Kane