The Cloud Spotter – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review
by Frank L.
Runs until February 4th, 2023
This play was produced by Allergy Theatre for the 2022 Five Lamps Arts Festival. The action takes place mostly in a flat near the Five Lamps. The set gives the impression of a cluttered home. There is a sofa and a table on which there are various bits and pieces but most prominently a music centre. There is also a small area which contains, hidden from view, a kitchen whose exterior is indicated by a tiled wall.
This cosy flat has been the home of Nan (Deirdre Monaghan) for many a year. She now lives in it with her teenage grandson Thomas (Callum Maxwell) who, when the play begins, has unfortunately already been in trouble with the law. Although Nan is not familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system she makes a plea on his behalf and has, as a result, the challenging task of trying to ensure that he does not get into any more trouble with the law and that he attends school each day. Given Thomas’s demeanour that is not going to be easy. The other relative who appears is Annie (Brenda Brooks). She is another daughter of Nan. She and her husband have a low opinion of Thomas and she has no difficulty in letting Nan know what they think of Thomas and indeed of Nan.
The role of Nan is pivotal to the plot. She is a Dublin mother and grandmother who has seen it all and should if there was any justice in the world, be putting her feet up and having a well-deserved rest. However, she is having to protect her grandson Thomas from the vagaries of the world while her own faculties are on the decline. Monaghan plays this substantial character with a fine understanding of the challenges Nan has to face. She is at her best when her natural sense of the comic brings a smile, even if there is little enough that she has to smile about. Nan is a most engaging character as played by Monaghan. Maxwell too has a substantial part for a young actor. He is an infuriating truant a lot of the time but he is able to dream of a better life and is able to share his unlikely dreams with Nan which gives them both a sense of escape. The title of the play comes from one of Thomas’s dreams. Annie’s part is a vehicle to relate various family tensions and prejudices which Brooks does admirably but it affords Brooks little opportunity to develop the character of Annie.
The devastation of drugs means that there are many women, who are getting on in years, who find themselves having to care for a grandchild. Harnett in Nan has created a woman of loving responsibility who is determined to do the best for her grandson Thomas, her flesh and blood, when there was no one else to take on the task. She is a proud woman, a funny woman and a courageous woman. She is determined to do her best for Thomas in her increasingly frail state.
The play lasts an hour and it is an hour well spent in beginning to understand the immense challenges that these fine women, like Nan, face as they try single-handed to raise a grandchild. It is what is happening now all over the country. It fits the purposes of Vincent McCabe, a co-founder of Allergy Theatre with Michael Harnett and director of the play, who is seeking to create theatre that is “exciting”, “entertaining” and “asks questions”. It ticks those boxes. Find the time to make a lunchtime trip to Bewleys.
THE CLOUDSPOTTER By Michael J. Harnett
Directed by Vinnie McCabe
Starring Brenda Brooks, Callum Maxwell and Deirdre Monaghan
Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review
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