It is so exciting to see a bunch of artists getting together and doing it for themselves on a profit-share basis, which is what is happening at Theatre Upstairs in Lanigan’s on Eden Quay (around the corner from the Abbey Theatre). This hive of creativity is in its second incarnation now after a stint at The Plough which came to an end in 2010. Listen to founder Karl Shiels explain his dream-making concept here in this fun iphone video by Una Kavanagh:
It is even better to see new writing by Jimmy Murphy in action in their dinky new theatre space, capturing the zeitgeist with chilling accuracy. We were given soup and brown bread, and then blown away by punchy 40-minute lunchtime show, PERFIDIA, Spanish for “Perfidy” which means “faithless, treacherous, false”.
There’s a for sale sign on the back wall – in the social realist style of Sean O’Casey. Jimmy Murphy subtley begins to peel back the treachery in question. All dolled up with no place to go, Ciara, played by Roseanna Purcell, searches her bag and curses herself. She has forgotten her keys again. She calls the mover on her mobile phone and asks him to pick them up en route. But she is now stuck outside her new building, waiting for the furniture to arrive – with Niamh to keep her company.
Niamh, played edgily by the brilliant Una Kavanagh, has set herself up with cardboard boxes, a chair, a bag, and a little shrine to herself – some photographs, a painting of Venice. She takes a deep breath, and makes herself comfortable. She is taking too many deep breaths, and sweating a lot, but there you go. Strung out and distraught, “I didn’t sleep at all last night” she re-iterates a few times. The two women, from different worlds, eventually strike up a conversation.
Why is Niamh sweating and hyperventilating and acting like this is all a bit of an out-of-body experience for her? She erupts when she discovers that single mother of three, Ciara, is not only getting to have the children she hoped for, but couldn’t possibly afford, but also getting an apartment like the one that has just broken her – for free! “Oh no it’s not free I pay €38 per week out of my single mother’s allowance” counters Ciara.
Self-employed Niamh ran her own dinky café near Christchurch during the boom, holidayed with her boyfriend in Venice, and got a mortgage for over a quarter of a million for the apartment – sound familiar? We meet her at rock bottom, as she steels herself for eviction.
Niamh has already witnessed seven evictions of her “lovely, lovely neighbours”, who found themselves in the exact same predicament she’s now in. Niamh’s parents are broke as well from trying to bail her out. Her boyfriend absconded to Canada. He did invite her, but she’s a good, principled person who believes in honouring her debts – which finds her in the sorry state we meet her in at Lanigan’s Theatre Upstairs. Unlikely empathy builds, as Niamh cools down enough to concede that Ciara’s life is also far from perfect.
The ending is a chilling coup de theatre which I can’t reveal here. So see for yourself – and weep at the timely reality of this important piece of new writing from Jimmy Murphy, directed by Peter Gaynor. Niamh and Ciara could be the great grandchildren of Juno and the Paycock, as Jimmy Murphy lays bare the grim social realities of where succumbing to the Celtic Tiger temptation of living beyond your means, and then trying too hard to be good may get you.
Perfidia is on the pulse, contemporary Irish drama, giving voice to characters who might have walked off of O’Connell street onto this tiny new stage. The sheer perfidy of how unfair life can be, and how your country can let you down is all too familiar. In classic Aristotelian fashion, we pity Ciara and Niamh, and we fear the same might happen to us. In the alchemy of theatre (upstairs), Una Kavanagh and Roseanna Purcell purge us of our pity and fear – and return us to the outside world with our catharsis.
If you want a punch in the face to rival Katie Taylor’s to wake you up at lunchtime – this is it. Plus on top of the catharsis, you’ll also get a heart-warming bowl of soup and brown bread into the bargain for the €10 entrance. Get in on the brilliance.
Catch Perfidia at 1pm and 6pm today (August 16th), tomorrow (August 17th), and Saturday (August 18th).
As if that’s not enough, you can also catch a lovely Art Exhibition in “The Green Room” while you are sipping your soup. The day we went along, we were treated to Helen McNulty’s cloud-inspired show, “UP”. Here, she explains what’s behind her cloudy paintings: UP
And here are a few of them, for your virtual delectation:
A journey through the clouds from 35000 feet
By Helen McNulty
Over the last ten years the theme of water and looking at the world through the prism of this malleable and unattainable substance has constantly left me stumped, breathless and in constant motion to try to capture its beauty in all forms.
One form is vapour.
Clouds fascinate me. The way they possess a nothingness yet depth beyond comprehension, how they cling on to light with a soft breath.
On each airplane journey for past ten years I have been transported into a meditation on these forms and shapes and textures, soaking in the palettes and perspectives of the great firmament from different points on the globe. Drawing these in motion, while they pass and shift away led to maps of the skies.
From these sketches and skymaps and photos and videos, my days in the studio are spend trying to recreate and represent that feeling of weightlessness, nothingness and infinity, and the feeling of floating through the ultimate paradox of existence bathed in a spray of all the colours.
These paintings and studies are presented here.