AN LÁR – Glass Mask Theatre – Review
by Brian Merriman
Premiering at Glass Mask Theatre, 41 Dawson street.
Runs until Saturday, December 17th at 7pm
Duration 85 minutes
The innovative and hard-working Glass Mask Theatre (at 41 Dawson Street) are staging their final offering for 2022 by commissioning Evanne Kilgallon to write a bi-lingual piece that is accessible to all. The seamless flow of the dialogue between Irish and English is one of the most appealing elements of this new mystical piece of Irish theatre.
‘AN LÁR’ was seen on every city bus to the bewilderment of tourists over the years! Solas (Saorla Wright) is the oddly dressed, latest arrival in An Lár – the centre of the earth – a place in between two worlds. Here Kilgallon bridges the Ireland of Celtic myths with the modern day. The unacquainted duo encounter mythological creatures in a ‘purgatory’, divided into two areas across a river of spirits and creatures, for those who lived good lives on earth and those whose earthly crimes remain unresolved.
There is a difference in class and culture between the two – urban and rural, and the choice of portraying Solas as a strongly (flawlessly) accented offspring of ‘Ross O’Carroll Kelly’, in some way undermined or diminished the strength of the deeper character we discover at the end. Her domestic circumstances do not easily rest in the social/political commentary she gives in the early scenes. They both journey upstream in a small boat ‘Baidin’ in search of absolution from a Court system, where men still sit in judgement of women, despite the progress of the latest century in Ireland.
Dorchas (an eloquent Kilgallon) has been in purgatory (An Lár) for centuries and once every hundred years, she gets an opportunity to plead her case, to be retried in the changing circumstances each new century can bring in the reform of the law. Both Wright and Kilgallon work well together on stage. Their diction and cueing are first-class, and they make good use of the very small space, under Conor Hanratty’s deft direction.
So, what kind of a piece of theatre is An Lár? It is billed as a musical play, which it really isn’t. It is more of a play with some music and good lyrics. I counted about 5 mainly recitative type songs over 85 minutes, and I enjoyed them and the harmonies.
It is also a piece, for the first 70 minutes, which would resonate with second-level students in its style and form. The use of two languages by Kilgallon is clever and effective. If you only have one of these languages, you will miss out on nothing, as the construction is designed to communicate and include you in the plot. For this, Kilgallon shows considerable skill as she opens up language and our history in a new scenario. With a more targeted twist in the plot, this work would do very well in schools. It is good writing.
However, all this accessibility for a potential younger audience then changes, in the last fifteen minutes, when the ‘crimes’ are exposed. The plot takes an unexpected, very adult turn. The points here are well made and hit home.
I struggled somewhat with the genres availed of to complete this welcome new piece of theatre. It does fall between a number of theatrical ‘stools’. It is hard to identify what audience is being targeted by the playwright’s storytelling?
Yet again, Glass Mask maximise the use of their comfortable and tiny space. They produce strong performances and do what is rare these days – encourage new playwriting voices. Kilgallon has teased her interest in many subjects in An Lár. She is certainly one to watch.
Writer: Evanne Kilgallon
Cast: Saorla Wright & Evanne Kilgallon
Costumes & Set: Cathyann Murphy
Director: Conor Hanratty