New Writing Week

Shane Gately in 'Spider' by Arthur Sheridan at the New Theatre.

Shane Gately in 'Spider' by Arthur Sheridan at the New Theatre.

Two new plays by two new playwrights – this is the double-bill running at The New Theatre this week (14th-19th June). In a theatre world which is feeling the pinch more than ever, with small companies and spaces particularly under pressure, it is particularly welcome to see a great space like the New Theatre promoting new talent. And, on the basis of these two short plays, there’s a lot of talent to be put out there.
The stage and production for both plays are spare – a minimal set of three black boxes, small lighting changes to highlight individual characters, and snatches of music to give context – with the result that the focus is on the writing, and the ways the actors have to bring the words to life.

The first play is Chaos Theory by Róisín Coyle, directed by Yvonne Ussher. Coyle worked on the play with the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writer’s Programme and has subsequently been accepted onto the New Playwrights Programme at the Abbey Theatre. Chaos Theory is a four-hander, made up of the central characters Adam and Helen, and their doubles. Adam is racked by guilty questions over the failure of his relationship with Helen and, in a bid to find answers, persuades Helen to participate in a re-enactment of key moments from their relationship: their first meeting, their first date, their first fight, and, crucially, their last fight.

'Chaos Theory' by Róisín Coyle.The play is based on the need we all have to replay our memories over and over in the hope of laying the past to rest or, as in this case, of apportioning blame. There are some nicely observed moments here, as Adam complains that Helen was “not that nice” in the past, while Helen counters with the line that “It can’t be exactly what happened” and then, as the re-enaction degenerates into fighting, she observes that “to know something to the point of hatred, that’s intimacy”. This is the point at which the doubles come into play, as they take over the re-enaction, while Helen and Adam become spectators. What elevates this short play above a slightly contrived series of distilled moments is the emerging realisation that this is not simply about the demise of a young relationship, but about something much darker, touching on violence and betrayal. Crissy O’Donovan and Conor O’Riordan give emotionally convincing performances, Cara Christie is engaging as Helen’s double, while Emmett Hughes struggles slightly to manage the self-consciousness of acting in the play within the play. Most of all, this play has real energy and promises future work worth watching out for.

TStephen Jones in Arthur Sheridan's 'Spider'.he second play is Arthur Sheridan’s Spider, directed by Anthony Fox. Spider is Sheridan’s first play and is a three-hander, but rather than the electric interplay of Chaos Theory, Spider is a series of three interlinked monologues. Again, the themes of violence and betrayal, lost lives and broken people are to the fore – and the monologue format underlines the sense of disconnection and alienation. Ann is a lonely young girl, unhappy in foster care and longing for her “real parents”, but in the two later monologues we gain an insight into the destructive family that she has idealised, as her father and brother relate their tales of alcohol abuse.

Sheridan’s writing shifts tone between the three characters, giving Ann, Dad and Son/Brother different voices, from Ann’s poetic despair to Dad and Son’s angry and bitter invectives. Carla McGlynn conveys the loneliness of a fifteen-year-old without a family, Shane Gately is convincing as the brutal and emotionally blind father, while Stephen Jones is strong as the Son, who has faced his alcoholism, remarking that during his first AA meeting, an “oul fella stands up and he starts telling my life story. I mean he was me”. Sheridan captures the everyman quality and the despair of addiction, in a piece reminiscent of Mark O’Rowe’s work.

The new writing initiative is planned as a regular event at the New Theatre and on the basis of these two plays, the theatre is clearly fostering talent and giving it room to develop. This is an important scheme and promises to be a showcase for emerging writers, actors and directors.

Emilie Pine lectures in Modern Drama at University College Dublin.

  • Review
  • Theatre

New Writing Week by Róisín Coyle (Chaos Theory) and Arthur Sheridan (Spider)

14 - 19 June, 2010

Produced by The New Theatre
In The New Theatre

Chaos Theory by Róisín Coyle
Directed by Yvonne Ussher
With: Cara Christie, Emmett Hughes, Crissy O’Donovan, Conor O’Riordan

Spider by Arthur Sheridan
Directed by Anthony Fox
With: Shane Gately, Carla McGlynn, Stephen Jones

Stage Manager: Lisa Krugel
Lighting Design: Eoin Stapleton