Wildebeest Theatre Company presents 'TAN' at The Loft.

Wildebeest Theatre Company presents 'TAN' at The Loft.

The rituals of young women getting ready for a wild night out are laid bare in Wildebeest Theatre Company's boisterous new comedy, TAN. Limerick girls, Aisling and Siobhán, are preparing for a typical Saturday night. Not only is there a lot of preening to be done but there is an equal amount of drinking, gossiping and teasing. Will Aisling nab the man of her dreams, or at least the one who liked her status on Facebook? Will Siobhán get stuck with boring friend, Carmel? The only certainty is that their cheap tanning products will make them look like zebras by the night’s end...

The Loft is a classic pub theatre set-up, an intimate space which seats 60 and offers the audience a voyeuristic perspective here on Siobhán’s (Marie Boylan) bedroom. The set was genuine down the smallest, messy details, and placed the cast firmly in their late teens/early twenties. When the girls appeared, they were in dressing gowns doubling as lab coats and glasses solemnly outlining “the science bit” of getting ready. It was fast paced, with immediacy coming from calls from the girls’ friends, but at 55 minutes the material was spread a little too thin.

Marie Boylan in 'TAN'.There are the constant jokes, insults and Aisling’s (Ann Blake) dubious statistics quoted from the tabloids. There are witty observations on all things girly like the pill, clothes and rating rugby players from “zero to ride”. There’s plenty of complaining about friends and Siobhán’s condescending boss. They snipe at each other, and a scene where they both only say the word “fine” at each other in increasingly passive aggressive ways had the audience in stitches. A re-enactment of Aisling’s last encounter with her beloved in the nightclub - first from her idealised viewpoint; then the harsh reality as outlined by Siobhán - showed the embarassing gap in perception to great effect.

The preparations are accompanied by the stereo, and the songs chosen provide the backdrop for some of the best physical comedy of the play. This includes the dance routine to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ and the girls belted out a great version of 80s power ballad ‘Alone Again’ with imagined microphones and air guitar. The actresses executed these scenes with gusto, as directed by Myles Breen of Bottom Dog Theatre Company, who excels at physical acting in his own right. Both actresses were wonderfully expressive and their performances seemed effortless.

Ann Blake in 'TAN'.The script was written by the actresses themselves. Blake and the director are members of the Choke Comedy Improv group, and TAN, while obviously scripted, has some elements of improvisation, clowning and the constant anticipation of what will be lampooned next. There is a liberal dose of swearing as well as casual references to drunkeness – a reflection of modern youth culture, disconcerting as it may be. TAN never hints that the tone will become serious nor makes any social comment; this is more a statement of intent than limitation. TAN is sharp and funny but would appeal to a particular audience.

TAN is the third production by Limerick company, Wildebeest, which was founded by Boylan, Meadhbh Haicéid and Liam Quinn. Its last production, A Different Animal, written by Haicéid, was an intense drama about changelings that made its debut at the Belltable Unfringed Festival last year, and gained Boylan a nomination for a best actress award. TAN shows the range of this company of young practitioners, and their commitment to original writing is admirable.

TAN is an energetic romp about friendship and female bonding, which comes from the unique perspective of the event before the event. If you scrape away the layers of bronzer, it is about hedonism, wanting to impress and a need to be liked - but the audience is left to draw their own conclusions about all that because, ultimately, TAN is all about fun and frivolity.

Rachael Finucane is a freelance journalist and arts blogger based in Limerick.

  • Review
  • Theatre

TAN by Ann Blake and Marie Boylan

23-26 February, 2012

Produced by Wildebeest Theatre Company
In The Loft, George’s Quay, Limerick

Directed by Myles Breen

Lighting: Pius McGrath

With: Ann Blake and Marie Boylan