The New Electric Ballroom – Gate Theatre – Review
Written by Enda Walsh
Dates: 23rd February– 1st April 2023
Photo Credit – Ros Kavanagh
This play tells the story of three sisters; Breda (Barbara Brennan), Clara (Jane Brennan) and Ada (Orla Fitzgerald). They live in a small ramshackle house, in a fishing village somewhere in rural Ireland. The only visitor to their house is Patsy (Marty Rea), a local man who intermittently drops in containers of fish. He tells them the local gossip, in which they have little or no interest. The two older sisters rarely, if ever, go outside. Each day they recount their memories of yesteryear, and in particular, their time spent in the New Electric Ballroom, a place where love is found and hearts are broken.
The writer of this piece, Enda Walsh, is known for works such as Disco Pigs (1996) and Misterman (1999), which were first produced by Corcadorca Theatre. Later, he worked with Druid theatre, with The Walworth Farce (2006) and two years later, The New Electric Ballroom (2008). The original Druid production of this play included Mikel Murfi, Rosaleen Linehan and Valerie Lilley in the cast. It was well received and travelled around Ireland and internationally, with visits to London, Perth and New York.
In this production, the set (by Kat Heath) is the large open-plan kitchen/ sitting room where the sisters live. It has curved corrugated iron walls and fishing nets hanging from the ceiling, like some type of temporary dwelling. It creates an atmosphere of gloom and poverty which suits the storyline. The costumes vary between their hum drum everyday clothing and the over-the-top glamour of their dresses for their trips to the ballroom!
The cast is very impressive and enters into the frenzied nature of the work. Barbara Brennan is the oldest of the sisters and the most controlling. Jane Brennan captures the fragile nature of Clara, constantly on edge while surviving the assaults of the others. Orla Fitzgerald plays the youngest sister Ada, who seems distant and forlorn, dreaming of an escape. Marty Rea plays the hopeless and slightly simple Patsy, a man who seems drawn to Ada and is desperate to end his loneliness. The transformation of his character later in the piece is one of the highlights.
The play has many of the typical themes of Enda Walsh’s other works and deals with isolation and fear of the outside world. The three sisters are almost captive inside their house but only Ada dreams of a life outside its walls, while the others try to convince her to stay. Walsh uses similar tropes in most of his work but this play is possibly his most complete, with a more satisfying ending.
The play is set in a world of heightened emotions and excessive frenzy. Director Emma Jordan has assembled an impressive cast who enter into the spirit and intensity of the work, with the manic glee of the reveries of their youth. The other aspect explored is their current dysfunctional and abusive relationships, which have built up over the course of their lives. We see the daily rituals and routines of these unusual characters. It’s a rewarding night of theatre that gives you a glimpse of an unknown world.
Barbara Brennan is Breda
Jane Brennan is Clara
Orla Fitzgerald is Ada
Marty Rea is Patsy
Written by Enda Walsh
Directed by Emma Jordan
Set and Costume Designer: Kat Heath
Lighting Designer: Ciarán Bagnall
Sound Designer: Katie Richardson
Movement/Choreographer: Liz Roche
Production Manager: Mikee Lonergan
Stage Manager: Sophie Flynn
Assistant Stage Manager: Mark Jackson
Costume Assistant: Aoife Eustace Doyle
Hair & Makeup Artist: Sarah McCann
Saxophonist: Ben Castle
Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review
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