Exit Strategy

Makeshift Ensemble presents 'Exit Strategy'. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

Makeshift Ensemble presents 'Exit Strategy'. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

Exit Strategy, Makeshift Ensemble’s new theatre offering, though flawed, is a surprising and often compelling piece of new writing. At the heart of the piece are two semi-fictional characters Eszter and Leah, best friends, who are at a crucial point in their lives. Having both lived and worked in Cork for quite some time, we see them now weighing up their options, seeking advice, and planning for the correct moment to execute their own 'exit strategies'.

The play essentially exists on three separate platforms - the corporate world, the game show world and the emotional world of the characters' reality. The central quest of this piece is the search for answers. The characters explain in some depth to us various business theories that they wish to apply to their lives, to enforce order on what has become chaotic. They also require our help, by asking us a string of yes or no Marcin Lewandowskiquestions that we must answer. An envelope is given to each audience member at the beginning of the show. In it are six coloured cards which represent six different outcomes for the characters. The answers that the audience give, dictate the outcome that the characters will ultimately arrive at. The script is fluid, as it is dependent on the decisions that each different audience will make.

Eszter Némethi’s set is multifunctional and helps to root us in this complicated reality. An interactive backdrop allows us to view graphs that demonstrate the business theory that is being explained to us, while also allowing us access to the lives of the two central characters. At another point, a comfortable red armchair is pulled with its back to the audience, and we join with Eszter and Leah in watching a youtube clip of some frogs singing ‘We All Stand Together.’ This play is in many ways a manifestation of the phrase ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’, however the sublime is often a little too self-aware and unnecessarily serious, and the ridiculous is often a little too fleeting and brief.

The lighting design of Hannah Sheedy, coupled with the sound design of Leah Hearne, brings into play the juxtaposition of lightness and darkness. The lighting is often shadowy and murky during serious monologues, where we hear the performers waxing lyrical about everything from the false depiction of Cork on Wikipedia, to the failings of the European Union. This darkness is undercut then, when the house lights suddenly come up on the audience and we are very much thrown into the spotlight, as our answers fuel the progress of the play and its characters. The sound, operated onstage by Leah, is primarily well-known songs that serve to highlight a moment with a witty slant.

Photo: Marcin LewandowskiNémethi and Hearne perform this piece with a sincerity, honesty and vulnerability that is most endearing. One gets a very real sense that these characters are only semi-fictional, and that in fact, we are seeing two real people who are struggling with real life and who are battling that inevitable sluggishness that can set in, post college and pre real world. However, their casual performances, while engaging, are sometimes a little too calm. The piece is packed with information and opinions and one wishes that the central performers would at times show more energy and drive the piece forward with slightly more exuberance. Némethi's direction is quite simple, involving heartfelt direct addresses to the audience. That it is uncomplicated is positive in a piece that is already struggling under its multitude of layers.

Exit Strategy, is a complex quagmire of thoughts, opinions, questions and decisions, but ultimately it is a triumph of bravery. It is flawed - the audience has too much to digest, the performances don’t pack a full punch, there is perhaps a need for the performers to simply perform as opposed to also designing, developing and directing - but ultimately Exit Strategy is brave and though-provoking and wins over its audience through its earnestness and its honesty.

Laura O’ Mahony is a writer from Cork who holds a degree in Drama and Theatre Studies as well as an MA in Irish Writing from UCC.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Exit Strategy by Makeshift Ensemble

28-29 June 2013

Produced by Makeshift Ensemble
In Cork Arts Theatre

Developed, Written and Performed by Eszter Némethi and Leah Hearne

Director: Eszter Némethi

Dramaturge: Bart Capelle

Set Design: Eszter Némethi

Sound Design: Leah Hearne

Costume Design: Ciara Geaney

Lighting Design: Hannah Sheedy

Exit Strategy is also being performed from 11-14 September as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2013


Presented as part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2013.

Developed at Make, a residential workshop facilitated by Cork Midsummer Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival, Project Arts Centre and Theatre Forum.