Friday, 3 March 2017

REVIEW: Cailleach Og Pleasance Theatre, Islington Industry Showcase

Blackshaw Theatre champions new writing and adaptations and its 2016 annual showcase awards winner was Cailleach Og written by Gerry Moynihan from Northern Ireland .This week it showcased a 75 minute version of the story at The Pleasance theatre Stage Space (its small black box space venue which seats 50) and showed it is a tale of real potential. 

Like the highly successful dark comedies “The Cripple of Inishmaan” and “Stones in their pockets”, Cailleach Og explores the impact on a rural Irish community of the arrival of an outsider into the village; In this case rather than the film crews it is a mysterious woman who proclaims she arrived on the back of a pig.

The play is based in the remote village of Bally Briocht in the shadow of the Cailleach Mountain and is routed in Irish mythology but mainly set in the pub of Daithi, played by Nathan Gordon and his wife Maire, played by Liis Mikk. Their strained relationship is tested by the arrival of the ethereal strange Cailleach Og, played by Victoria Otter. Her stories and explanations bring a cynical reaction of disbelief from Daithi but gradually test his relationship with his wife and his regular customer, Snibber played by Stephen Good. They collectively deliver the laughs and then develop the tension.

The most touching scene is when Daithi explains a school incident that has shaped his life and relationships. The 4 characters are well developed and offer enough interest and emotional connections to sustain the drama and the unfolding mystery. 

The scenes outside the pub are restricted by the limited staging and the space
of this production and don't create the mystical and threatening atmosphere intended but in a full production they would significantly enhance the dramatic impact of the story and provide a sharp contrast to the familiarity of the pub setting . Indeed the story could be developed by introducing scenes with the off stage character, Macguire who wants to develop a mine in the village that would scar the local landscape and is a constant unseen threat to their simple lives.

While there is much work to do, this showcase with a relatively inexperienced cast in a restrictive setting , showed that the play has real potential to be developed into another dark Irish tragi-comedy that would grace larger venues and attract an audience.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★
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