Gone Full Havisham – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review
by Frank L.
Gone Full Havisham – Written and performed by Irene Kelleher
The stage is dominated by a large bed. There are three monitors on stage and the back wall is also used for the projection of images. The play starts with a cacophony of voices and sounds and innumerable images flashing up on the monitors and the back wall. We are in the world of social media and Emily Halloran (Irene Kelleher) is in the thick of it.
She relates her childhood with her father whom she adored and various adolescent adventures until she meets a guy whom she is going to marry. He is even more controlling than her much-adored father. She describes the never-ending pressures a bride comes under from the wedding industry as she prepared for the big day. Even the big day itself has to be shown on social media from the moment she wakes up. Meanwhile, she is careering through a massive mental conflagration. She is in overdrive.
Kelleher is a writer who is able to bring humour into what is a scary world. For instance, she creates an unlikely bedtime story told by the father about a septic tank along with a lacerating description of a female proprietor of a bridal boutique who is of the view that a bride has to be emaciated in order to fulfil her role. The script moves at a cracking pace through many scenarios. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of images on the monitors and the back wall including a vintage black and white version of Great Expectations and the Disney cartoon version of Snow White and the seven dwarfs.
What Emily experiences is a twenty-first century trauma (intensified by social media) similar to that which Miss Havisham experienced in Dickens’ “Great Expectations”. The symbolism of the wedding dress in all its tattered glory is not to be denied.
The production is painstakingly lit and with its various projected images makes for a demanding visual experience. Kelleher herself is physically engaged in a series of activities which includes brushing her teeth vigorously and smearing herself with a banana having peeled it.
One has to be in awe of the raw energy of Kelleher but because it is so incessant there is a sense of exhaustion before the show ends. Perhaps a greater variety of pace might address this issue That said Kelleher is both a writer and performer to watch and her version of Miss Havisham certainly engages.