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Barbican Theatre  

We walk into a warehouse-like space. Inside, there are five pre-fabricated rooms. We are divided into five groups, each with a leader to navigate our way. ‘Look, touch anything you want,’ we’re told. It’s a bit like being Alice, but instead of one rabbit hole, there are five.

The first room we enter is a girl’s bedroom. It looks as if dust has sucked out all its light. Everywhere toys, boxed games. On the ceiling, a mobile of the planets.

The lights dim and from a raised speaker, the story begins. The voice is a woman’s voice, looking back to when she was six. She talks of her parents and asks, ‘How is it that they’ve grown into this half-life?’ When the lights fizz, we move into another part of the story- a walk the girl makes to the seafront and what happens there.

The second room we enter is a musty broken down office, tables scratched, drawers pulled out. Here, the story moves from childhood to adulthood – with a silver unicorn to bridge the passage. ‘A childhood lived and forgotten,’ to ‘In that office, I will always speak of love.’

The third room is a narrow 1970s style kitchen; on a noticeboard, cut out pictures of birds. Another deeply lived in room. A small fridge. We look at it in wonder and as if it is a rare beast. A woman describes her relationship to her cornflakes sucking husband and her desire – unmet- to fly.

The fourth room is a dingy hotel room, the kind we’ve all (perhaps) once stayed in and vowed never to do so again, where danger resides in the bedsheets. There’s an unread though many times flicked through Bible on the bedside cabinet. A man and his nemesis, a fly. ‘I will not allow that fly to wither me with his arrogance.’ Of all the rooms, all the stories, this was my favourite, flitting between pathos and humour at an alarming speed.

The fifth room is a ‘posh’ bathroom, not, as one of the people in my group says, ‘a London bathroom. More the size of a London bedroom.’ On the sink table, orchids and white cathedral candles. But the sink has been hammered at and its debris lies on the floor. Another story, another life splattered with pain.

A couple in my group who came to this show, not for Enda Walsh but because they follow the trail of immersive theatre, had expected to be active participants and felt, disappointingly, as if they’d been rendered passive.

I, however, came for Enda Walsh, whose writing and directing I have come to adore. There’s a beauty here, precision, and the guts to leave things unfinished, unsaid. In our world of theatre where reportage is king, Walsh has remarkably found himself an audience appreciative of the grandeur of his poetical imagination. The rhythm of his words, the smallness of the stories here told do not detract from the compellingness of his drama.

The actors are superb. The sets stunningly imagined and realised. The lighting and sound designs, provocative..

A thoroughly strange evening, but strange in the best of ways.

  • Drama
  • Writer and director: Enda Walsh
  • Actors: Niall Buggy, Charlie Murphy, Eileen Walsh, Paul Reid, Donal O’Kelly
  • Lighting Designer: Adam Fitzsimons
  • Sound Designer Helen Atkinson
  • Produced by Galway International Arts Festival
  • Barbican Theatre  
  • Unil 19th of April 2019
  • Time: Varies

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