On Tuesday night I was at the Abbey Theatre again so see ‘Citysong’ – one of the early bird tickets I had bought last December. Written by Dylan Coburn Gray and directed by Caitriona McLaughlin this is a co-production between the Abbey and Soho Theatre in London – where it will play for a month after its fortnight in Dublin.
We entered the theatre to the sight of an impressive set. The stage had been extended and an aerial view of Dublin city stood prominently at the back of the stage. It was made from mirrors so I located my reflection as I took my seat in Row J – which was now the fourth row from the front.
The play itself takes the form of a spoken word monologue or a poem told in the style of ‘Under Milk Wood’ by Dylan Thomas. It is recited in turn by the ensemble cast of six (Amy Conroy; Jade Jordan; Bláithín Mac Gabhann; Daryl McCormack; Clare McKenna and Dan Monaghan). It tells the story of three generations of one family over one day. A pair of thirty something schoolteachers, living in Swords welcome their new child into the world. The new mother’s own mother sits at home and reminisces about her past while worrying about her failing memory. Her teenage grandson (who lives with his divorced mother) as he awkwardly attends his first teenage party, while being massively uncomfortable in his own skin. These characters moves from time and place around the city recounting their tales.
It’s an entertaining play that emphasises to us that the past is the present and that the present is that past. The performances are strong (by Amy Conroy in particular – her portrayal of a hormonal teenage boy is pitch perfect) and the story is told with great humour and pace. These are ordinary characters living ordinary lives. While enjoyable the play is not as poetic or as meaningful as it could me. The mundanity of these lives is well communicated through the intelligent script – it’s just that I wasn’t engaged by all the tales told. Perhaps the play was slightly too long – the taxi driver character who opens and closes the play seems superfluous to the narrative – although Dan Monaghan is a fine actor who portrays him well.
These are minor quibbles. ‘Citysong’ is an impressive piece of theatre with a fine script and a talented cast. Running in the Abbey until June 8th, ‘Citysong’ is worth checking out.