Reviews Dublin Published 23 January 2012

The Family

13th - 28th January 2012

Domestic disharmony.

Jane Grogan

Youth, energy, talent, a taste for experiment and the courage to face the most cherished structures and harshest realities of Irish society. All of these very attractive and commendable features are to be seen in THEATREclub’s production of The Family, a devised piece produced as part of Project Catalyst, an initiative of the wonderful Project Arts Centre. It’s just a real pity that the production doesn’t make the best use of these gifts, and I left the theatre disappointed, if hopeful that a future production will find the magic formula which can bind all of these ingredients together.

Because something to bind all the elements is precisely what’s needed in this improv-driven piece about the Irish family. Pretty and pink though the set is, its design as a 1950s-style all-American home, complete with white picket fence and slightly creepy nosy neighbours, it’s a facile shortcut to take to establish the false idyll of the happy family who play and eat and grow together, and it adds little to the piece besides some unwanted reminders of Wisteria Lane gothicism.

Moving haphazardly through a series of set-pieces that (apparently) seek to address issues such as addiction, gender roles and social ideals, the cast’s constant switching between roles (while keeping the same – their own – names) gives none of the sequences sufficient traction or substance or, in some cases, interest. The lack of parent figures, or consistent parent figures, at least, undermines most of the scenes and gives the whole production a slightly studenty feel. And additional meta-dramatic elements, such as the quasi-director role played by the nosy neighbour , Brian Bennett, and the increasingly irritating speaking clock function performed by Gemma Collins, fail to frame or demarcate or progress the individual pieces in the ways that they so sorely need.

There are certainly some nice observational moments amid the incoherence, and some classy acting, notably by Gerard Kelly and Louise Lewis. Some of the early scenes of almost contrapuntal overlapping dialogues have charm and humour, and Lauren Larkin and Louise Lewis pull off a manic, alarming scene of carrot-chopping that will certainly awaken a few smiles of recognition. But nothing really comes together here, and the piece has a whole seems to have little to say. Some clunky references near the end to the ‘current economic thing’ (as the more successfully-fictionalised young commentator Ross O’Carroll-Kelly puts it) do little to unify the piece, and although there’s some arresting choreographed violence, and fancy footwork in the partial-dismantling of the IKEA kitchen with loud expostulations about it all being fake, the production is something of a damp squib.

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Jane Grogan is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

The Family Show Info


Produced by THEATREclub

Directed by Grace Dyas

Cast includes Brian Bennett, Shane Byrne, Gemma Collins, Gerard Kelly, Lauren Larkin, Louise Lewis, Barry O’Connor

Link http://www.projectartscentre.ie/

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