For the third time in a week, I was at an Abbey production (but don’t worry about my looming bankruptcy – thanks to my dull cunning, the combined cost for these shows was 27 euro). This evening for my theatrical entertainment I was in attendance at ‘Dublin will show you how’. This was an off-site production for the Abbey – being held in the Complex – who co-produced the show. It was written by Tracy Martin and directed by Vanessa Fielding of the Complex.
From workshops held with women from the north inner city – my part of town – came ‘Dublin will show you how’ which tells the bleak tale about how loansharking, poverty, addiction and debt is blighting the lives of entire communities. Despair and a lack of hope seems to prevail in these places that have long been neglected – before, during and after the Celtic Tiger. Breaking the cycle of poverty and addiction is incredibly difficult.
The Complex is an old warehouse building on Arran Street East. I was lucky I was early for the show as I arrived at the previous location of the Complex in the nearby Little Mary Street, to be guided to the new venue by a person stationed at the door of the old location. The audience sits on either side of the warehouse with the space in between acting as the stage. A blanket was provided for the warmth in the unheated building. It was a very atmospheric – albeit chilly location. It must be said that splitting the audience required the actors to address each side of the stage separately. As the space was so large and echoey it meant the actors weren’t always fully audible, so you had to concentrate.
The show follows a community in inner city Dublin as it navigates a world which has no place for it. The ensemble cast all play several characters in this community. Denise McCormack from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ fame plays Joan – a mother grieving over the suicide of her addicted son. Liz Fitzgibbon plays both a homeless addict, and the abused wife of the moneylender’s henchman. Karen Ardiff (who I’d seen in ‘Rathmines Road’ in the Peacock in October) was a last minute addition to the cast, who joined so late that her presence is announced via a piece of cardboard in the programme plays Tina – the recovering drug addict whose son James is falling into the clutches of the moneylender. She gave a stunning performance – hilarious, angry and compelling. The actor who played her son is Thommas Kane Byrne – I sat beside his mother in the front row – she proudly announced her identity to me at the intermission. Proud she should be. The cast was strong, but I wasn’t completely impressed by the show.
It was so unremittingly bleak and hopeless. These may be stories worth telling, but the relentlessly grim conclusion that this is an unbreakable cycle of misery is not uplifting. ‘Dublin will show you how’ is a worthy, noble effort to tell tales that are neglected by the theatre, and it was interesting to see so many inner-city folks in attendance, as sadly they are rarely present at the theatre. I’m glad I saw it.
Saturday is the last show.