Reviews Galway Published 20 July 2017

Review: Crestfall at Galway International Arts Festival

18 - 29 July 2017

A vivid plane of toxic femininity: Chris McCormack reviews Druid’s revival of Mark O’Rowe controversial play.

Chris McCormack
Crestfall at Galway International Arts Festival. Photo: Stephen Cummiskey.

Crestfall at Galway International Arts Festival. Photo: Stephen Cummiskey.

What’s out of the ordinary in Mark O’Rowe’s nefarious play? At first, you’d imagine it’s Olive, a woman supposedly in a committed relationship but now strolling carefree between two illicit affairs. But later arrives a pack of wild dogs, led by a gruesome canine peering through his extra eye. Olive, accepting that which baffles, casually assures us: “I know. Weird”.

Accused of celebrating bestiality on its premiere in 2003, this embattled work is told by three women sharing interlinking accounts of the same day. O’Rowe’s uncanny vision of Dublin produced more and better grit with Terminus in 2007, and most recently Our Few and Evil Days in 2014. Despite being revisited and put into absorbing verse, Crestfall still feels frustratingly aloof.

Director Annabelle Comyn’s considered production for Druid is a vivid plane of toxic femininity, a purgatorial place where women are directed against each other through jealousy and resentment. At the epicentre is Kate Stanley Brennan’s fascinatingly damaged Olive, who has pursued the desired males of the other two. When it’s time to receive their condemnation, Brennan gives a silent smirk in the background, or, to hide real remorse, turns her back on us completely.

This is the normalising horror of sexual violence. We share the alarm of the young mother Alison (a fraught Siobhán Cullen) as a sinister stranger indecently exposes himself, and pity the prostitute Tilly (Amy McElhatton) for remaining loyal to an abusive pimp. On other occasions, O’Rowe has often folded terror into grotesque comedy. Here it induces mostly silent viewing.

That’s probably because, here, reality is much more pressing. Designer Aedín Cosgrove creates a timely and combative setting, placing the pacing figures inside an orange shipping container, leaking with water. It seems to suggests that these women are refugees from themselves. But O’Rowe’s action, flashing insanely with violence, is more obsessed with female implosion than exploring its source.

The dust eventually settles after a brutal shoot-out, and McElhatton’s forsaken Tilly steps out into a world stunning in its banality. If anything, Crestfall is an aghast experience of a world that blurs unreliably between danger and safety.

Crestfall is on at the Galway International Arts Festival until 29th July 2017. Click here for more details. 


Chris McCormack is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: Crestfall at Galway International Arts Festival Show Info

Produced by Druid

Directed by Annabelle Comyn

Written by Mark O'Rowe

Cast includes Kate Stanley Brennan, Siobhán Cullen, Amy McElhatton


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