Grab a drink. Dance to the beat. This is theatre that’s also a rave. Conflicted Theatre and Peter Power’s new co-production, a thrilling dystopian western, ushers the audience into a world that’s long since given up on responsibilities, and encourages the same of its audience.
Director Gavin McEntee’s epic production transforms a warehouse into a saloon where hedonism is the number one rule. Its preacher (Áine Ní Laoghaire) instructs us on when to party and when to pay attention to the narrative (written by Evan Lordan), which comes to us in intense and spectacular images. A muscled outlaw (Graham Earley) escapes from a deranged sheriff (Mark D’Aughton). A young innocent (Shane Doonan) is force-fed a drink by an older man. But neither macho nor sybaritic enough, he is sentenced to be a hanged by chains. Even this indulgent society is not without its injustices.
The plot, pushed along by Power’s entrancing electronica and Sarah Jane Shiels’ stellar lighting, gets a deus ex machina: a devil played by George Hannover, making one hell of an entrance. From a piano, she sings a ballad that finds remarkable depth in people’s sins. In this place, the forsaken needs rescuing from the most dubious of sources.
McEntee’s production is fascinated with degradation but nothing, and no one, ever feels worthless. When Earley’s seething rebel falls into the clutches of Ní Laoghaire’s exalting preacher, she sends both of them on a trip. The effects of drug taking and the brainless observations that ensue are elevated here to the state of absurdist theatre. When blows are exchanged between Earley and D’Aughton’s sheriff, it’s gripping combat. Their hits connect with help from the lighting and sound design (the only misgiving is that the gunshots require louder blasts).
It is the loss of innocence that’s most tragic, however, as an angelic prostitute (Katie Honan) turns to ice. Conspiring to send the sheriff to his death, a new question emerges: who will take his place? A depraved realm such as this needs good policing. Is order any less restored when, as we observe, it is at the service of the devil? Visitors to this production might call it a religious experience.
Cork Midsummer Festival is on until 25th June 2017. Click here for more details.