Ellamenope Jones

'Ellamenope Jones', written and directed by Wayne Jordan. Photo: Fiona Morgan

'Ellamenope Jones', written and directed by Wayne Jordan. Photo: Fiona Morgan

Kathy Rose O'Brien in 'Ellamenope Jones'. Photo: Fiona Morgan

Kathy Rose O'Brien in 'Ellamenope Jones'. Photo: Fiona Morgan

Ellamenope Jones doesn’t take no for an answer. Attractive, determined, ruthless, she’s a ‘yes’ woman who’ll do anything to get what she wants. "If life gives you shit, polish it" is just one of her many mantras. This sassy Dublin lady knows what it’s like at rock bottom, and there’s no way she’s going back. The mastermind of a pyramid scheme, Ellamenope sniffs out the tragedy in women’s lives and forces them to dream better, harder, faster. "What do you want for your liiiiiife?" she asks her prey with a rising inflection; one arm waving a space for the vision to appear. Friends, handbags, second homes, first homes – anything is possible in Miss Jones’ world.
"The diva who does" is surrounded by women at various stages of commitment to her scheme. When the performance begins, Cryola Box (Greene) is pretty much on board, and it’s not long before self-loathing Sophie Sunday (Fox) is drawn in too. Heart-broken Cleopatra (Lewis), Cryola’s sister, is similarly lured in, although it’s up to Cassandra Crowe (Radmall Quirke), a Ukrainian cleaner, to take a stand.
In this exciting new musical, the drama unfolds on a stripped-back set. A panel of lights covers the top wall of the traverse staging, and a group of three musicians who perform live sit opposite. Under Wayne Jordan’s clear, snappy direction, the five female performers alternate between participating in the main action and observing it from chairs on the periphery, occasionally speaking into mics for metatheatrical emphasis: "acting is reacting," we are frequently reminded. 
The ensemble performances are physically bold and slick, with the music and lighting effects never getting in the way of the story. Created through improvisations with the actors, the piece has great roles for female performers, who seize the opportunity to explore and exploit the full spectrum of their stereotyping. The performances are all excellent, with O’Brien ably leading the cast. In her superb performance, she  illuminates a fine line between comedy and terror, and exploits this fertile territory for all its worth. She stalks the stage throughout, at once animalistic and militaristic. Her eyes scan the space to seduce and intimidate the cast and audience. When she beats up recalcitrant recruits, the violence is palpable, but with one pivot of her stiletto she leads her posse in the hilarious refrain "We’re declaring a republic of getting what the fuck we like." Set to Carl Kennedy’s catchy melodies, the tunes will stick in your head long after the show ends.
While the production is extremely enjoyable, it also addresses issues around self-esteem that seem especially pertinent to women. In one of the wittiest lines from the piece, Ellamenope announces that self-doubt creates a cabaret of confusion in the mind. Foremost, these characters perceive themselves through an imaginary lens that forensically tracks their bodies and monitors their moves. "Sweaty", "messy", "fat" are just some of the terms they invoke to depict themselves. In separate monologues, they describe seeing themselves through "the gaze," which alludes to everything from Laura Mulvey’s theory of patriarchal representation, to celebrity culture’s obsession with female flesh, to the gay demographic presumed to relish the camp delivery, if not also identify with or contribute to the phenomenon being broached.  
While the writing is very smart, the script is a little long, and winds up leaving a couple of important questions unanswered. While the sparse aesthetic allows for great clarity in the delivery, the material would do very well with a more amplified production, that would at least include some more dynamic visuals. Also, a theatre that could accommodate a larger audience would allow the energies to better spark and spread. Create a role for Twink, and it could run for months.  However, these alternative possibilities do not significantly detract from the production we are given. A sharp take on the roots and dangers of greed and ambition, Randolf SD’s musical offers a wonderfully entertaining take on the state o’ the nation. Don’t use the snow as an excuse. That’s just the self-doubt talking.

Fintan Walsh is ITM Staff Writer.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Ellamenope Jones by Wayne Jordan

30 Nov – 11 Dec, 2010

Produced by Randolph SD | The Company
In Project Arts Centre

Written and directed by Wayne Jordan

Music: Carl Kennedy

Lighting and Production: Sinead Wallace

With: Kathy Rose O’Brien, Elaine Fox, Louise Lewis, Sarah Greene and Natalie Radmall Quirke


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Director Wayne Jordan talks to ITM News Editor, Peter Crawley