Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Love 2.0, Project Cube 18-20th September 2008

Love 2.0 comprises two plays, originally commissioned by the Abbey Theatre as part of the 20:Love season of new writing and now expanded into two discreet plays of 20 minutes each. They form part of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2008. The theme was "love", and both writers have explored it in different ways, with many intersections.

Two Houses, by Belinda McKeon, has siblings Maeve and Eamon in a confrontational situation late one night in their sitting room. She is in her fifth year at school, he (in his late twenties) is living at home after separating from his wife. The programme notes have McKeon say that she "wanted, with Two Houses, to put these characters in a place that is to them at once dully familiar and unnervingly volatile". This is exactly the tone, familiar and volatile. And it makes for a not always comfortable experience. Maeve wants to grow up fast, she has a friend on Bebo who is older than her, more Eamon's age. Eamon's outrage that she should be going near such a fella is much more personal than might at first be apparent and as the scene progresses, it becomes obvious that both siblings share in an understanding of the complexities of love and sex and their limits. Maeve's paralysis at the end of the play is perfectly judged, she cannot or does not want to reveal Eamon's secret, not just because she knows it will get him into trouble with the law, but also because she understands the impulses that got him there. It's a cerebral work that I think will be seen again.

Phillip McMahon's Investment Potential is an extremely enjoyable and troubling play about love in a modern, materialist Ireland. That's a little pat, I know, and does not do justice to what's going on. It is structurally more complex, having several scene changes and time-frame shifts. The depths of the character of Anne (Kathy Keira Clarke) are subtle and bring the audience from laughter to despair with hardly a moment's notice. Brendan (Brendan McCormack, who also plays Eamon, with great versatility), her boyfriend, is charming and lazy, and Anne's sinking ennui with the neighbours and friends who own their own apartments and houses is drawn out with some skill. Dragging herself home with her Marks and Spencers shopping, being mistakenly "recognized" by a lonely woman there, being insulted by the staff in the Spar downstairs, the increasing grimness almost imperceptibly mounts to a very sad end with a broad horizon. What is powerful about the play is the slow realization of just how destructive this angst really is, how it infects everything.

Phillip McMahon and Belinda McKeon make a powerful duo, and it should be said that McMahon is a co-founder of the production company thisispopbaby who produced the play in association with the Abbey. He generously refers to McKeon as an "obscenely talented writer" in the notes, and this is true. But I think his own work is beautiful too and not undeserving of such generosity. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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