They Float Up – Bewley’s Café Theatre Online – Review
by Hugh Maguire
A streamed online event – Presented by Bewley’s Café Theatre and The Lock Inn
Dates: Wednesday 11th, 18th , and 25th of November, 2020 @ 7.30pm
Some forty-five minutes of lively, animated dialogue allows us to come to know quite a lot about two unlikely individuals thrown together in a Bourbon Street Bar in New Orleans. Middle-aged Joan and sultry Darnell occupy different zones – one somewhat hyper, the other brooding as befits the New Orleans locale. One keen to talk and befriend anyone who will listen, the other stoic and yet with much to say as we find out. One having a simple bottle of beer, the other on their third camp-coloured cocktail and it is only mid-afternoon!
Through an unfettered ebullience and a belief, or at least a hope, in her ongoing charms and allure, Joan melts Darnell’s reserves and not only affords him an opportunity to articulate pent up frustrations and grief at society’s injustice but to break through an age barrier and see her as a fellow traveller. It is all pithy and sometimes witty and yet there are serious themes – loneliness, isolation, age and race difference, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the injustices within wider American society, the collapse of physical and social infrastructure which the devastating event highlighted. The heavy hand of drama history is hard to shake off. Can we witness any middle-aged woman presenting herself, out of the blue, in New Orleans without thinking of Tennessee Williams’s Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire? Both Joan and Blanche already have sisters ensconced in New Orleans and have arrived to find or make a better life. Joan’s objectifying gaze at Darnell is akin to Blanche’s doomed flirting with the ‘Young Collector’ the unnamed youth who calls to the apartment. Indeed, something of the initially sullen Darnell could be seen as Stanley Kowalski. But whereas Blanche’s attempts at seduction are cringingly tragic, Joan’s efforts are much more comic and can be enjoyed for what they are. We know that she will keep going whereas Blanche is shrivelling to her demise. Joan is a fighter and the lurid pink of her cocktails will allow her to see life through rose-tinted spectacles.
This tight two-hander returns for a number of online performances as theatre continues to fight against the gloom of the lockdown. It’s a diverting and enjoyable experience.
Dates: Wednesday 11th, 18th , and 25th of November, 2020.