Daedalus Productions presents 'Clear the Air' by Hugh Travers at Theatre Upstairs.

Daedalus Productions presents 'Clear the Air' by Hugh Travers at Theatre Upstairs.

The skies were closed. They were stuck in Dublin watching the skies. An ash cloud hung over the island, and like generations of their forefathers, no one was getting off the island. Containment inevitably leads to plans for escape. Standing still for one more moment will result in implosion. Thus, a ferry here, a rented car there, travel through lands near and distant and sessions in foreign pubs. Of course, the ash cloud in Hugh Travers' Clear_the_Air at Theatre Upstairs refers to a variety of personal and national plagues: frustration, redundancy, stagnating relationships and the danger of dreams fading with time, as that once-certain future, remains still in the future.

Suddenly, innocent-eyed sit-on-the-fence Lenny (Dylan McDonough) belts out a few beats of Celtic rock from the Horslips, Italia ‘90 is recalled, and for a few brief moments, we can all remember when “the Irish got to own the world”, if only for a time. Everyone relishes in an underdog getting a break, and the success is all the sweeter for its surprise arrival. News that Richie (Barry O’Connor), Lenny and Lisa’s (Margaret McAuliffe) band’s soundtrack to an Irish movie will be premiered at the prestigious Tribeca festival in New York, along with the invitation to gig there, is that moment in a million when fortunes may change.

Unexpected triumphs and long transcontinental journeys force these characters to take stock. They tell of driving through French war towns and sipping cocktails in elegant New York bars. From these vantage points, destiny affords them a glimpse from the heavens to all below, and they drink it in. But taking stock leads to questions. Does Richie want a relationship with Lisa, and if so, can they move on from sneaking around to the ‘real life stuff’, like holding hands in public? Can the band bridge the gap from small gigs to the international stage? Maybe not, but perhaps in this case, the journey incites a much-needed change in course. Like for many a traveller, the real magic of leaving home is finding your way back. Like many good plots, resolution to crisis is signalled but not confirmed, leaving the audience to ponder the potential action thereafter.

The playing space at Theatre Upstairs is fulfilling an essential role, facilitating emerging talent to develop and play. Clear_the_Air is all talent. Hugh Travers' strong script is matched by confident, engaging, well-paced performances. Phelan’s direction makes the tight space work for their production, as Lenny, Richie and Lisa strike a comfortable storytelling accord with the audience that protects the monologues from faltering in energy mid-performance. Zia Holly’s atmospheric set and lighting convey the flavour of a backroom in a dusty bar, where musicians indulge in memories of past gigs and glories. With its stark imagery of landscapes, hopes, and desire for a break, this play could develop further in a slightly bigger yet still intimate playing space.

Miriam Haughton lectures in theatre studies in the School of English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. 

  • Review
  • Theatre

Clear_the_Air by Hugh Travers

5 - 16 Feb, 2013

Produced by Daedalus Productions
In Theatre Upstairs @ Lanigan's

Directed by Ronan Phelan

Set and Lighting Design: Zia Holly

With: Barry O’Connor, Dylan MacDonough and Margaret McAuliffe