Reviews Dublin Published 1 March 2017

Review: Jericho at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt, Dublin.

Bewley's Cafe Theatre ⋄ 22 February - 4 March 2017

Realist and meta-realist: Chris McCormack reviews Malaprop Theatre’s new work about truth in the modern age.

Chris McCormack
Jericho at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Carla Rogers.

Jericho at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Carla Rogers.

What does your entrance theme say about you? When performer Maeve O’Mahony exchanges orchestral airs befitting an important politician for some arena-filling heavy metal that could usher a WWE wrestler to the ring, it’s an entrance that couldn’t better signal a hyperreality if we were living in one. Which, it turns out, we are.

This arch new play by Malaprop Theatre, a bright company, has been commissioned by Bewley’s Café Theatre to respond to recent events. “We were asked to make a show about the world,” explains Maeve. That’s a tricky subject at the moment with the landscape rocked seismically by executive orders and Article 50. What sense can be made?

Its plot finds O’Mahony (arch and able) playing a journalist who works for an online publication that, depressingly, pumps out stories every 45 minutes in the key of whatever buzzword the advertisers want. When she’s handed an assignment on professional wrestling, she becomes absorbed. “It’s almost progressive if you squint at it,” she claims.

Director Claire O’Reilly’s sly staging, devised with Dylan Coburn Gray and mapped by Breffni Holohan’s dramaturgy, works to sustain the self-reflexivity of postdramatic theatre within an almost wholly dramatic model. Realism often gives over to voiceover and distancing effects that put O’Mahony in focus: making an uber-healthy juice one minute, toying with chocolate biscuits the next. Who is she fooling?

Whether in wrestling or in civilisation (which owes its beginnings, we learn, to the city of Jericho in the Palestinian territories), pretence is an art that humanity has gotten pretty good at. WWE footage shown in John Gunning’s impressive audio-visuals depicts the current U.S. President playing his part. Elsewhere, commentary trails off into off-colour comments on why Undertaker the wrestler should retire or how wrestling CEO Vince McMahon isn’t a family man. O’Mahony’s journalist even gets dragged out of context in an online argument that transforms Molly O’Cathain’s office set into a modest wrestling ring, branding her as a demon. That’s how truths get unscrewed these days.

Malaprop weave such contemporary distortions – the casualization of important issues through social media fatigue, the loss of shoe leather journalism to click-bait – into a perceptive post-truth critique. It mightn’t be a coincidence that O’Reilly’s realist and meta-realist methods grapple to the point of self-cannibalisation; the staging’s disjointed elements seem deliberate. It doesn’t, however, transcend. The production resigns itself to reveal the strain of its task, that of portraying the world, and by doing so reduces an awesome flash of postmodernity to a spark.

Jericho is on until 4th March 2017 at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre in Dublin. Click here for more details.

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Chris McCormack is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: Jericho at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre @ Powerscourt, Dublin. Show Info


Produced by Malaprop Theatre and Bewley's Cafe Theatre

Directed by Claire O'Reilly

Written by Claire O'Reilly, Maeve O'Mahony, Dylan Coburn Gray and Breffni Holahan

Cast includes Maeve O'Mahony

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