Pros: Good acting and a proper set.
Cons: The first play was a bit alienating and some parts of the stage direction were odd
This production featured two plays by Irish writer James McAnespy, who also happened to play major roles in both of them. It’s great when you can do one thing to help you do another thing, except perhaps if you’re a fireman. And an arsonist.
While these plays didn’t exactly set the world on fire (check the masterful segue), it was great to see two one-location solid set pieces that really concentrated on character development, as opposed to Hollywood-movie style complex plot. The first, C.L.G., sees two members of rival Gaelic Football teams locked in a clubhouse room until they decide on the venue for their needle forthcoming match. The second, Sitting Up For Michael, is about a family staying up all night for their dead relative’s wake.
Personally I felt C.L.G., with its Gaelic football theme, left me a little lost. Don’t get me wrong, I love sport and competition – I once ate 14 slices at the Pizza Hut buffet – but when it’s a sport you’re unfamiliar with, you do find yourself caring a bit less. I get that it was kind of an extended comedy sketch that ridiculed blind tribalism, but I felt there needed to be more variation and depth other than (the admittedly fairly witty) sniping about who scored what when, etc. The fact that there were just two characters who couldn’t leave the room didn’t help, but the chemistry between the actors was pretty good and there were some amusing moments.
The first play was very much a warm-up for the second, Sitting Up For Michael. Here, a cast of seven well-defined and well-acted characters immediately allowed you to get under their skin and grasp their individual stories or traits. There’s brother and sister Brian and Frieda, brought together by grief but essentially pretty tense with each other and their differing approaches to the situation. Then there’s family friend Rory with a drinking problem, and comforting neighbour Doris. Michael’s (the dead guy) grandson Joe turns up with the snooty Carla, whom he met on the bus. And bringing up the rear is old Billy the local drunk. It kind of felt like The Archers, but with the word ‘fuck’ inserted every so often. Peggy would not be amused.
I’m of course doing it a disservice: there were luckily no storylines involving which giant cabbage will win at the village fete this year. Instead, it was very enjoyable seeing 45 minutes (or whatever it was) of subtle human interaction. I’d say subtle for the most part, as I felt some reveals were over-signposted, and there was also a weird stage direction every so often where the actors mimed over dramatically to signify time passing. That didn’t really work, but generally it was an enjoyable piece.
All in all, the evening was fairly hit and miss. I suppose in an ideal world, I’d have liked to have seen a longer, fleshier version of Sitting Up For Michael, as I felt there were endless interesting avenues the story could go down. C.L.G., I think, would work better as shorter piece that embraced its sketch-like nature, like a little Pixar or Disney short before the main feature. But then, that would be too Hollywood, and we don’t want that.
Author: James McAnespy
Director: Alex Howarth
Producer: Kings Fool
Booking Until: 27th April 2014
Box Office: 0844 8700 887
Booking Link: http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/search/searchVenueDetails.asp?venue_id=35089