The Importance of Nothing
The Everyman, Cork, Apr 9th-11th; Belltable, Limerick, Apr 13th-14th
How does an experimental theatre company view the theatrical canon? In the case of Pan Pan Theatre Company it’s usually as a jumping off point for negotiations. Revived from its 2016 debut for a national tour, director Gavin Quinn’s approach to Oscar Wilde, who famously declared all art to be “quite useless”, now puts the man to a very specific use. Here Wilde becomes the subject of an anti-homophobic workshop in an imaginary prison, where inmates explore and repurpose his life and work to suit their own expression.
That process archly mirrors Pan Pan’s, finding a rigorous understanding of the man and the material to create fractured, freewheeling and rough edged equivalents. If that sounds weightily conceptual, it is: Wilde, always glittering and coded, is here translated in the discussions and enactments of Mark O’Halloran, Alan Bennett and Dylan Tighe, into something coarser and much more overt. That may be our understanding of Wilde, though, whose gossamer and artificial comedies now feel shackled by his all-too real tragedy.
Maz and Bricks
Civic Theatre, Tallaght, Apr 9th-10th; Backstage Theatre, Longford, Apr 11th; glór, Ennis, Apr 13th
Eva O’Connor, the writer and performer behind the company Sunday’s Child, has tackled sensitive subjects before, ranging from grief to abuse to mental distress, yet always with a light hand, preferring the subtle study of characters rather than the well-intended clank of issue drama.
For her first play with Fishamble, in which she performs with Stephen Jones, two lives again intersect with a political display: her character Maz is attending a demonstration to Repeal the Eighth amendment (which, with the show revived to tour nationally in the run-up to the referendum, acquires a more urgent momentum), while the young man she will encounter, Bricks, is visiting his estranged partner, the mother of their young daughter.
Directed by Jim Culleton, the production finds the two becoming unlikely friends on an odyssey through contemporary Dublin, prodding at each other’s politics and passions. Such a stage has always served O’Connor well: to wonder how we reach our positions in life, and in what ways we refine them.