The Juggler

StripBack Theatre presents 'The Juggler' by Bernard Field.

StripBack Theatre presents 'The Juggler' by Bernard Field.

Bernard Field’s new play has a very interesting proposition: suicide with witness, accomplice and voyeur on the viral internet level. The Juggler is set in the flat of a middle-aged academic teacher (played by Field). He is kidnapped by a woman who terrifies and enchants him as he bears witness, at gun point, to the depravities of her suicidal personality. Anne, young and attractive, is stunningly portrayed by Suzanne Harbison, who gives conviction to the ravages of her character’s mental health in a superb performance. Harbison’s raw portrayal captures the excremental ugliness of the woman’s feelings as she leads up to the deed, and succeeds in laying bare the mental horrors that accompany her death wish.

The premise of this play seems preposterous at the outset: a grown man held hostage by a young woman to participate in her suicide as she streams it on the internet. But it is a powerful imagery that entices interest and is innovative in its use in theatre of the web and live-streaming in this way.

The stage set is untidy, littered with the works of both obscure and obvious literary writers and music sheets that do not mask the slobbery in which the removed academic lives. The set is good, if not entirely apt (its representation of a sparse neglected hovel resembles more a squat than an academic's mess), the lighting adequate, and music well chosen for the play.

Field’s ideas are inventive. There is a coarse depth to his work that deserves attention and as we have seen in previous works, Field’s writing translates into rewarding plays. There is macabre and enlightened darkness in his ideas and writing that, given more resources, can be utterly entrancing. This was seen in Last Train from Holyhead when Field had the fortune of having the great Mick Lally invent his superbly observed role in the way that only an intuitively good actor can.

In The Juggler, Field has none of the resources available to him for Last Train..., and it shows in some ways. Field himself had to take the part of hostage after the actor who had rehearsed for the role had to abandon within weeks of the play’s opening. Field convinces as a writer but with such little rehearsal time, he was challenged as an actor in this production. The Juggler would also benefit from more harnessing of the playwright’s ideas, especially in relation to its treatment of the power of the internet. It has a rushed, frantic feel to it that begs for tighter direction, better pacing and greater control of the tension.

This is a play you wish you hadn’t seen; Harbison's visceral command of her character is chilling and you find that you can’t stop thinking about her afterwards. We can take The Juggler as a bitter entrĂ©e of what’s to come, and look forward to Field’s future work.

Breda Shannon

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Juggler by Bernard Field

26 Nov - 1 Dec, 2012

Produced by StripBack Theatre
In Town Hall Studio

Directed by Suzanne Harbison/Siobhan O’Gorman

Sound Design: Dara McConnell

With: Siobhan Harbison and Bernard Field