Straight to Video – Project Arts Centre – Review
Straight to Video by Emmet Kirwan
This play is based around a video shop in Tallaght in the mid-90s. We meet Barry (Emmet Kirwan), the owner of the struggling shop, along with his two employees Karl (Colin Campbell) and Claire (Kate Gilmore). The shop has fallen on hard times and has started some extracurricular activities, selling some dodgy wine on the side. The man that supplies this hooch is known only as Coach (Stephen Brennan). He’s a sinister character, a man who claims to be trying to clean up the area but in reality, is doing anything but. Barry is trying to turn the business around after the death of his father, but his dealings with Coach turn out to be a deal with the devil!
This is a new play by Emmet Kirwan, who previously wrote Dublin Oldschool, the much-loved production that toured extensively before being turned into a film of the same name. Kirwan also stars in this production, adding to the quirky mix of characters. This play is quite different to Dublin Oldschool and is more light-hearted in nature. While there is talk of drug dealing and violence in this production, it doesn’t have the darker edge of his previous work.
The set is the creation of Grace Smart, and it’s an impressive rendering of a run down video shop, complete with rows of videos and a counter that the cast regularly bound over and onto. The glass front wall of the shop allows the audience to see the happenings outside.
The other unusual thing about this production is that it’s almost two and a half hours long, which is surprising for a work of this nature. Despite the long stage time, the production doesn’t drag and there are many side stories and minor dilemmas to keep the audience entertained.
Those that are familiar with Kirwan’s previous work may be surprised by how straightforward a tale this is. He’s known for his social commentary but that is missing from the mix in this play. The aim is to put a smile on the face of its audience and the impressive cast deliver some good one-liners. The production focuses on the two younger employees, with Colin Campbell playing our earnest and troubled hero, while Kate Gilmore adds depth and humour to the character of Claire. Derbhle Crotty makes an enjoyable if all too brief appearance as the flamboyant Denise, adding some glamour and magic late on in the production. Director Phillip McMahon keeps the pace of the production high throughout. Movement Director Philip Connaughton also deserves a mention, as the cast buzz around the stage with delicate precision. The work is reminiscent of a number of films from the 90s, such as Clerks and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s a play that could be easily converted to the screen at some point in the future, hopefully avoiding the fate mentioned in its title! It is rare to see a comedy on stage in Ireland and this enjoyable new work should entice some new faces to the theatre.
Phillip McMahon – Director
Grace Smart – Set Designer
Ellen Kirk – Costume Designer
Sinéad McKenna – Lighting Designer
Alma Kelliher – Sound Designer
Philip Connaughton – Movement Director
Claire O’Reilly – Associate Director