Dublin By Lamplight

Written by Michael West in collaboration with the Corn Exchange
Directed by Annie Ryan
Music performed live by Danny Sheridan
Liverpool Playhouse (15th-19th May 2007)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is an ingenious and exhilarating production by the Corn Exchange, who hail from Dublin. A cast of six very talented actors weave together a bizarre but highly entertaining and vivid period piece, despite the absence of props and scenery, except for a brick wall, footlights and a stage curtain.

Set in 1904, it alludes to the attempt to establish, what is described in the play, as an "Irish National Theatre of Ireland".

It details, in a very unusual form - for example through the use of commedia dell'arte - the narration by the actors of their own actions and deeds in an exaggerated mannered and melodramatic style. The effect of all the cast wearing white faces (in a style similar to the Japanese Kabuki tradition) on the opening night of the mythical artistic creation, 'The Wooing Of Emer' by playwright Willy Hayes (Louis Lovett) adds to the spectacle.

But he has a major problem in that his leading lady and suffragette Eva St John (Karen Egan) is incarcerated in prison. How will he manage to stage the play without her?

He turns to the services of theatre costume designer Maggie (Janet Moran) to replace her. This switch leads to a number of comic moments, when they both want to play the same role after Eva is released.

Talking about roles, each of the cast admirably play a series of roles - be it idiot policemen, crooks or prostitutes. Particularly impressive in a sterling cast is the campish red bedecked luvvie actor Martyn Wallace (Tom Jordan Murphy).

Their delivery of different modes of speech and mime is equally versatile.

The second act - less then half the length of the first - proves to be dark and sinister, with a tragic ending.

The only pity for Liverpool theatregoers is that Dublin By Lamplight is only at the Playhouse for five days. It more than deserves to be seen by a much larger audience. Highly recommended.

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