These Stupid Things – Smock Alley – Review
by Frank L.
16 – 21 Jul 2019 |@7:30pm | 2pm on Sat & Sun
The stage consists of a series of platforms at various heights. This space serves many purposes as it creates a backdrop to the nightclub where the two protagonists meet, along with a multitude of other locations as their relationship morphs into a marriage. Leonard (Ian Toner) and Penelope (Rachel O’Byrne) are medical students coming to the end of their student days when they meet.
Their relationship is not nurtured on the whispering of sweet nothings but with a cool analysis of what the other says. Their initial discourse is far from romantic. Penelope in particular analyses what is spoken with rigour. Each of them analyse if their decisions are made on the basis of intuition or evidence. In this process, in the early part of the the play, they involve members of the audience to demonstrate how certain flaws or prejudices are often inherent in how decisions are made. It is enlightening.
As their careers develop in different ways their professional priorities as medical practitioners follow inevitably divergent paths. While each has successes and failures in their professional life, again sometimes influenced by flawed decision making, their marriage has been taking a secondary place. When they decide to place their marriage centre stage, new issues emerge for them. When they face these issues they are, of course as professionals fully au fait with the statistical information which is not in their favour.
The play lasts about an hour and forty minutes and for the first hour Toner and O’Byrne keep you absolutely rapt. Each are entirely convincing as ambitious third level educational products of the twenty first century as they follow their professional goals. The play starts to lose impetus when Leonard and Penelope begin to place their marriage as the most important aspect of their world. Travers appears to have been uncertain where to bring the piece to a conclusion and rejects several points which could have concluded it, albeit somewhat harshly. It would not have been a happy ending but there is little in this piece that smacks of rose-tinted romance. A tough ending would not have been out of place.
Throughout, it is a pleasure to watch Toner and O’Byrne develop the characters of Leonard and Penelope. The play starts with great pace and style, but sadly gets bogged down in the intricacies of their lives. However, it is a serious play about important issues which are increasingly relevant. While there are some flaws, there is also much to excite.
Written by: Hugh Travers
Directed by: Sarah Baxter
Lighting Design: Bill Woodland
Set + Costume Design: Sarah Foley
Sound Design: Vincent Doherty
Cast: Rachel O’Byrne + Ian Toner