The Twenty Club – Glass Mask Theatre – Review
by Frank L.
26 Sep 2022 until 8 Oct 2022
This new work is set during the Second World War, in a neutral Dublin in 1942. The Emergency as it was called in Ireland was convulsing the European continent. Dublin was crawling with spies from both sides of the conflict. The Irish secret service needed to be abreast of what these visitors were doing. Three young women are employed to eavesdrop from a flat in Haddington Road on conversations between these strangers and Nazi Germany. The most mature is Ellen (Lesley Conroy) who liaises with Captain Farrell, who is the director of operations. Norah (Evanne Kilgallon) is the most impetuous and Joan (Eva Jane Gaffney) the most knowing. They chatter about Dublin nightlife, the everyday difficulties of obtaining the necessities of life in the city and the glamour of these visitors who have money and spend it in all the right places, like the Gresham. Eventually, they are directed by Farrell to leave their flat to undertake a mission abroad which does not go according to plan and subsequently leads to a reckoning.
Rex Ryan has directed the production in the round. This complements the cafe atmosphere of the Glass Mask Theatre which has itself tones of theatre-making in the forties. This sense of the time is further enhanced by the costumes of each of the actors which heed the wartime restrictions but display a touch of allure when that is what is needed. However, the perennial problem with theatre in the round is inevitably at times there are unsatisfactory sight lines which emerge depending on the situation of your seat.
The play is about an hour and twenty minutes which is probably a little too long as the final act dissects various incidents which have gone before in some considerable detail. However, the overall sense at the end was that of a well-crafted piece of theatre, with impressive acting in a theatre which suited the genre. Dublin during the Second World War was a place of intrigue, subterfuge, bluff and counter bluff. It is a period worthy of enquiry. It was engaging to be involved in the everyday world of secret agents in the familiar territory of Dublin. It is healthy to remember that aspect of the Emergency.