Nothing But A Toerag – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review
by G. O’Byrne
November 04 – 23, 2019
Nothing But A Toerag by Aisling O’Mara
This play is a two hander with the author Aisling O’Mara playing one of the roles along with Clare Monnelly.
The stage is what appears to be a bare cell with a bunk bed, a small table & chair and a sparsely populated bookshelf. The furnishings of the cell and clothing worn by the actors are all coloured grey and white leading to a deliberately monochrome setting. When the play opens, we see the character who we come to know as Bianca (or B, played by Aisling O’Mara) carrying a small basket of personal effects, entering the cell where the other character, whom we only ever know as “A” (played by Clare Monnelly) is already present.
The characters, speaking to each other in strong Dublin accents, start “shaping” up to each other as they begin the process of introducing themselves. We form the impression of two convicted criminals both being deliberately cagey about revealing themselves to each other. The character known as A slowly persuades Bianca to reveal something of her life while revealing little about herself. The days pass and we slowly learn more about Bianca’s former life, a father long gone, living with her mother and niece. Reference is made to brothers who occupied one of the bedrooms in their house growing up, with Bianca and her mother and father in the other room.
As the plot unfolds, we see Bianca getting increasingly upset as A continues to probe her story. Another side of A is revealed when she persuades Bianca to join her in a dance routine to ‘Praise You’ to celebrate her birthday.
However, there is an abrupt change of tone where we realise all is not quite as our prejudices might have led us to believe about the setting, and a series of revelations in the final scenes expose suppressed traumas, the effects of which have led to devastating impacts on the lives of the characters.
Both Aisling O’Mara and Clare Monnelly are experienced actors who deftly handle their characters. Their use of every inch of the small stage increases the feeling of entrapment. The sparse setting and monochrome layout accentuate the sense of imprisonment but is the imprisonment psychological, physical or both?
Directed by Amilia Stewart