Dispersia by Shane McDermott

Where have all the flowers gone? In Fregoli Theatre Company’s offering to the 2009 Galway Theatre Festival, they’ll be sandwiched between the toasters and vinyl records and piles of lost or unwanted detritus from the throw-away-world of writer Shane McDermott’s purgatorial play, Dispersia. They may be catalogued by a tormented St. Christopher and his confessor: a single, down-at-heel pink sock called Claude. Not a puppet, one should note, or a metaphorical sock, but a frail sounding actress wrapped up in a long knitted blanket. She speaks with a Franglais accent. Zany? Profound? Or mixed up?

Dispersia is a dystopian other-world where all lost or unwanted objects end up. St. Christopher is the caretaker. Eventually giving up filing many years’ mess of lost objects, St. Christopher mooches about and ponders his fall from Catholic grace with Claude the sock. He searches for redemption, but this seems fated to never happen until a young child, ‘Girl’, turns up, followed shortly by her mother. Choices have to be made. Will St. Christopher do the right thing?

Due to the short nature of the Galway Theatre Festival, this review relates to the first night of a world premiere with a two performance run, but even so, Dispersia is clearly a work in progress with rather ungainly moments. The exposition is far too long (one gets the conceit after two minutes) and the development and resolution too cramped. McDermott litters the work with both classical and more contemporary references, borrowing heavily and (presumably) consciously from Milton, Dante, the Bible, a Gerry Springer-esque chat show, and even TV’s ‘Room 101’. He’s mixed ideas from these with Expressionist monologues, melodramatic brow-beating and a Tarantino thriller climax - and then directors Maria Tivnan and Rob McFeely wade in, juxtaposing realist acting with flashes of inexplicably stylised movement. In fact, it’s difficult to find a moment untainted by homage to some dramatic genre or other; the whole work is a little over embellished without being challenging.

McDermott himself plays an angular, hirsute St. Christopher and Rebecca Ryan a rather quiet Claude. Teresa Brennan jumps around enthusiastically as Girl, and a sober-suited Ann Blake is her mother. No one is credited with the rather meagre set, and there was a wonderful opportunity for splendid exuberance from the suggestions in the script of a cornucopia of bric-a-brac swamping the stage.

However, despite the general clutter, there are aspects of this production to celebrate: McDermott is never going to produce a nondescript script, he scorns convention, he is surrounded by a loyal crew and an enthusiastic audience who enjoy his off-the-page imagination and vaunting ambition, and the writing (particularly of the two central monologues) is sometimes carefully crafted. His previous play (Mosaic of Dreams) may have been a more finely tuned work but Fregoli have taken the idea of a Theatre Festival to heart, doing just what they felt like at the time, rather than what might have been commercially expected of them.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Dispersia by Shane McDermott

22 and 23 October, 2009

Produced by Fregoli Theatre Company
In Nun’s Island Theatre, as part of Galway Theatre Festival

Directed by Maria Tivnan and Rob McFeely

With: Rebecca Ryan, Ann Blake, Teresa Brennan, Shane McDermott

Presented as part of Galway Theatre Festival 2009.