Eleanora Salter and the Monster From the Sea – Dublin Fringe Festival – Review
Performances – 15–18 September @ 20:00, 16–18 September @ 13:00, €15/€13
Venue – Bewley’s Café Theatre
by Jane Madden & Clodagh Mooney Duggan
Developed as part of DUETS, an artist support initiative made with the combined expertise of Irish Theatre Institute, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Dublin Fringe Festival
We meet Eleanora Salter when she has just arrived for her first day at her new job. Her father has recently passed away and she has taken over the lighthouse where he worked. Her family have been lighthouse keepers for many generations and she is looking forward to her new job and sets about making herself at home. Her only contact with the outside world is through her phone and the CB radio, where she talks to the other members of her profession. The other Lighthouse Keepers are a prickly bunch who have no time for niceties, purely focused on their work. She spends her days recording the measurements of wind speeds and wave heights. One day while talking on her CB radio, she makes contact with a mysterious voice. She doesn’t know if this voice is supernatural in origin or if it is someone playing a trick on her. Slowly, she starts to trust the voice and eventually, they forge a relationship!
This is the first show back on the tiny stage at Bewley’s for 18 months and it is great to have it back! These small stages are where we get to meet the new talent emerging from the colleges around Ireland for the first time and in this case, Clodagh Mooney Duggan takes centre stage. There is only Clodagh on stage for the duration of the play, but she interacts with the various voices that emerge from the radios and speakers, which requires a lot of preparation and timing.
The title of this play is a little misleading, as it is not in the horror genre. The production is a more sedate affair that delves into the innermost thoughts of an individual. Almost by definition, a Lighthouse Keeper spends a lot of time alone. The play is ultimately about isolation and the effects it can have you on. Loneliness is a difficult emotion to convey on stage, but it is achieved well here. Clodagh Mooney Duggan puts in an impressive display adding warmth and humour to the role. She manages to hold the attention of the audience throughout. As with many of the plays in this Fringe festival, it’s a reflection of our times and there is more than a passing nod to the various lockdowns that we have hopefully seen the last of. As the play hints at, the worst monsters are often those in our own heads.