Devised and Co-created by Shanna May Breen & Luke Casserly
Venue – Samuel Beckett Theatre
Date(s) – 30 Sept – 2 Oct, 7.30pm, 2 Oct, 2.30pm
“Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár ” – Caoine Cill Chais – The Lament for Kilcash
It’s funny how these lines always spring to mind whenever the deforestation of Ireland is raised. Not to mention that it was said that once upon a time a squirrel could travel from the top to the bottom of Ireland from branch to branch, so extensive were our ancient forests prior to the Tudor conquest. And so it was, in Shanna May Breen and Luke Casserly’s Dublin Theatre Festival production entitled “Root” at TCD’s Samuel Beckett Theatre last night.
Performed in the round with chairs circling the performance space, this is a production with four actors, the aforementioned Shanna May Breen and Luke Casserly, also Shanna’s mother Fiona Breen and Wayne Jordan (the freelance theatre director and actor who in recent times has been more comfortable centre stage than behind the scenes). Shanna has a background in Scenography and Luke’s is in Drama and Theatre Studies so they both bring extensive prior experience to this imaginative piece. Wayne Jordan brings an undeniable physical presence to the production, particularly in the scene where, stripped to his underwear, he lies on the floor, whereupon Fiona fills his bellybutton with water, and Shanna slowly enters the space with a toy pterodactyl which, after circling slowly, swoops to drink from the improvised pond!
The four actors play themselves and explore the subject matter in a freeform manner with dance, music, monologue and dialogue. The transition from great forest to functional wooden objects is marked by the rolling onto the performance space of a great carved wooden table around which the actors parade with a selection of everyday wooden objects. We are reminded of how the great trees ended up as the roofs of English medieval cathedrals. Ignoring a conventional linear storytelling, and bringing their own back stories into the fray, this is a flexible and unstructured piece that connects us to the life of trees and their history on this island. Imaginative use of props from a great tree branch to rolling conkers onto the floor keeps the audience guessing as to what comes next. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes very personal, it does not lead us in any particular direction with its subject matter but the warmth between the four actors shines through to the end.