Ciarán Kenny in 'Decked' by Paul Walker at Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough.

Ciarán Kenny in 'Decked' by Paul Walker at Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough.

Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough

Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough

There’s something both mind-boggling and encouraging about the idea of opening a new theatre in the middle of the country’s worst economic crisis on record, not to mention in light of already effected and anticipated funding cutbacks within the arts. Located just above Lanigan’s Plough Bar on Middle Abbey Street, directly opposite the Abbey, Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough is a new non-funded, profit-share venue which promises to stage lunchtime and evening shows. Although the intimate, terracotta-daubed space had to close following its initial opening on the 18th – its Facebook page reported “unforeseen circumstances,” such as “water n things” – it reopened just over one week later with Paul Walker’s 50-minute play, Decked, back on stage.

Performed solely by Ciarán Kenny, the piece is delivered by a blood-soaked, middle-aged chancer on his last legs. While it is essentially a monologue, the production doesn’t preserve the more familiar conceit of a troubled soul speaking in confidence. Instead, the central character Gerry stumbles onto a realistically constructed roof having been shot offstage under uncertain circumstances. Unable to sit still due to his injury and frenetic energy, he stumbles around the sharply angled stage throughout, his mental imbalance and physical degeneration amplified by the precarious setting.

Immediately, Gerry launches into his life story, which begins with meeting his wife Kelli – yes, “with an ‘I’, not a y.” Sometimes lying down, other times faltering about, Gerry leads us through his early sexual experiences, becoming a father, getting married, having an affair, and to his detriment, latterly becoming involved in some dodgy dealings at work. There’s talk of an unscrupulous laminate flooring scheme, and some shady dealings with “Horse,” although the precise nature of how these events have led to the present situation isn’t entirely clear. Occasionally he shouts downward, as if one of the characters he mentions might be on ground level.

While the script is quite generic in its dramatic form and in centralizing a dysfunctional male character, the knowledge that the protagonist is bleeding to death and will probably expire within the hour creates enough tension to keep us with the action. Moreover, Kenny gives a terrific performance that greatly enhances the text. On one level, he is far too robust and energetic for a man with one foot in the grave, but there’s a mania to everything he says and does that makes this behaviour seem plausible. Strikingly, Kenny sweats profusely throughout, and by the end of the performance it’s a pool of salt water rather than blood that dribbles down the tiles. You might not notice this in a larger theatre, of course, but Kenny doesn’t downscale his delivery here.

Fintan Walsh is a Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Decked by Paul Walker

From 19th Jan 2010

Produced by Karl Shiels
In Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough

Written and directed by Paul Walker

Lighting by Andy Cummins

With: Ciarán Kenny

Forthcoming shows at Theatre Upstairs @ the Plough include plays by Brian Delany, Deirdre Kinahan, Jimmy Murphy and Eugene O’Brien.