An evening at the theatre, part deux: ‘Murder of crows’

After yesterday’s unsuccessful attempt (read about it HERE) to see the play in the title of this article, on Friday evening I tried again. I strolled to the Theatre Upstairs on Eden Quay for the 7pm arrival time. This theatre is located upstairs from Lanigan’s Bar, and is just around the corner from the Abbey Theatre.

Not having time to purchase a pre-show beverage, I arrived at the box office to be greeted by the same guy who’d been there the night before.

He smiled and said ‘Oh you’re back again.’ That sounded vaguely threatening. In my head, I was thinking ‘Oh I hope he didn’t see the article I wrote yesterday’. Then I remembered that the audience for this blog is select and discerning. In other words low in number. Of course, he didn’t read it. He was just being friendly.

In any case I had merely given an honest account of my endeavour to see the play. And it’s not mean if it’s true.

‘Oh yes, I want to see this one.’

I joined the rest of the crowd in the waiting area. The audience was larger than last night’s. And they all seemed very young. Which is unusual and refreshing. Perhaps it’s a stereotype but I tend to view the theatre audience as slightly more mature. Which is unfortunate if it’s true –  as the theatre should be for everyone.

Obviously, yesterday’s illness had been banished, and at 7.01 we were called into the room, and told individually to turn our phones off. I complied.

The performers were already on stage, being enveloped by dry ice. The three women stood there motionless, not a move from any of them, aside from an occasional, unavoidable eye-blink. The set was simple but attractive – a white floor and wall section, interwoven with black hanging threads, that looked like some sinister spider’s web.

I ignored the dry ice. I am not generally a fan of this effect, as it smells quite sickly. It reminds me of Cheers nightclub in Limerick, during the slow set at the end of the night, when I was eighteen. The cider would have kicked in and I’d be feeling tired and emotional at the thought that I’d never be in love, because I would be taking my dirty secret – being theatrical– to my grave with me.

Once the crowd had settled – which didn’t take long, as the theatre is very small holding only about fifty seats – it began with a discordant, vaguely eerie kind of music laid over the Angelus bells.

The action began. The three women were playing troublesome teenage schoolgirls called Sam (Katie Honan); Jess (Aisling O’Mara) and Dee (Amilia Stewart). After vandalising a teacher’s car, they are sent as punishment on a study retreat to county Wicklow (accompanied by their vinegar lipped teacher – also played by Honan – to indicate when she was in teacher mode, she struck a pose, pursed her lips and started braying in a country accent – it was hilarious).

Before they are sent away they are issued a stark warning by their grandmother (played by O’Mara) not to go. The crows would be waiting, and horror was in store.

Once on the retreat they discover that juvenile delinquents from other schools would also be present. Including boys.

And I won’t give any spoilers – but Granny may have been right.

It’s an excellent play. The three actors give outstanding performance – at times hilarious, other times heart-breaking. The dialogue is constant, the movements fluid, and all three slipped seamlessly into various characters, while there was never any confusion for the audience as to which character they were playing. They captured that spirit of teenage girls and boys – bolshie, tribal, brutal, vulnerable, loyal. The most impressive performance to my untrained eye was by Honan – purely because I loved her portrayal of the bitter vengeful alcoholic teacher so much.

The script was tight, and only occasionally required a suspension of disbelief – the main one being to my literal mind, the unlikelihood of three inner city schoolgirls being sent on a weekend study retreat as a punishment.

The pace was frenetic – which added to the growing tension on stage.

It was written by Lee Coffey, and directed by Karl Shiels.

Running for just under one hour, I would highly recommend you go see this one. It runs until next Saturday at Theatre Upstairs.

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