Nice. No, really nice. To spend a whole day with your best pal agreeing, disagreeing, (not fighting), puzzling about plays about homosexual parentage, eco-terrorist mass murder by train derailment, the meaning of life by Karl Sagan and time travel, slavery and the sexual politics it can result in and, best of all; Rock and Roll (indie style), the death of your dementia ridden parents and having a baby maybe just before it was biologically too late. And to meet Coronation Street Stars and Ulster American Stars and What Makes a Girl stars and the Three best directors in Scortland (Orla, Cora and David). To eat good, really quite good street food. To drink a little too much beer, without losing the ability to enjoy any of the above. And then to sleep.
You know those things Frankie Boyle says that few of us even think?
You know the way Martin McDonagh captures the Irish ‘thing’?
You know the pace and eloquence that Aaron Sorkin brings to TV writing?
This is the mash up. Kinda.
It’s actually a symbiosis of the three: 1 + 1 + 1 = >3
Written by David Ireland (I HAVE to see more of his work), brilliantly directed by Gareth Nichols and impeccably acted; no, ferociously acted, by Darrell D’Silva, Robert Jack and Lucianne McEvoy. This is joyous, mind tingling, laugh out loud, sick to the stomach farce, and political machination brought together in an unholy alliance that led to whoops, cheers and a standing ovation from a sold out Trav 2 audience that were simply blown away by total theatre.
90 minutes passed in the blink of an eye and you could have wrung us out after.
By revealing ANY of the plot would be a spoiler but you’ll never think of Princess Diana the same way again.
This will win every award going.
On our recent trip to Italy I was particularly taken by this fantastic brutalist (it’s actually rationalist or neo-rationalist) cathedral in La Spezia.
The 12 support pillars represent the 12 apostles.
It was built between the mid 1950’s and its consecration in 1975.
And the apostles names are carved into each pillar.
The crucifix is 19th Century and is the only ‘old’ thing in the church (if you don’t count me).
It was designed by the rationalist architect Adalberto Libera.
Above the crucifix is a stunning 50 metre stained glass cupola.
If Theatre of the Absurd kicked off with Becket’s Godot it may have reached its zenith in Ionesco’s work; most famously in Rhinoceros.
It’s not a big stretch of the imagination for the audience to understand the concept that’s being ridiculed in this 1959 play about the pre WWII rise in fascism.
The way in which it overwhelmed an intelligent, educated and huge populace of Germany (in Nazism), but many other European countries too, does seem, on reflection, absurd but terrifyingly so.
And you’re left in no doubt that this is an absurdist comedy in Zinnie Harris’ epic production, because the word is liberally sprinkled throughout the script.
And you’re also left in no doubt that what was a mid 20th century phenomenon is prescient in these pre-Brexit days where the threat of religious war hangs heavily over us all, tainted as it is with accusations of brainwashing, fundamentalism and all sorts of ‘-ification’.
Ionesco saw 1930’s fascist ideological conformity as abhorrent (and like us he had the benefit of hindsight). His response was an absurd construct that portrays the emerging nazi’fication’ of Europe as a metaphor. Ordinary people’s metamorphosis from essentially liberal political belief-sets and world views to the fundamental acceptance of extremes of right wing doctrine was, in his play, like turning from humans into rhinocerii.
And yet it happened. And, like a plague, the more it became ideologically acceptable the more it became the accepted norm.
Few felt able to challenge and rail against it. And the more the pendulum swung the more
One of the few, in Ionesco’s world, is a simple village drunk called Berenger (played enthusiastically and engagingly by Robert Jack) who simply doesn’t understand what the world is rhinocerising.
His friends (led by the ever brilliant Steve McNicholl) gradually desert him as he becomes a lone voice of not even reason, just questioning.
It’s in parts hysterical, in parts just a bit too full-on to assimilate and in parts beautiful.
The live score by Oguz Kaplangi is mesmerising. (I will go again to see this simply to decode his incredible soundscaping of the piece with music, sound effects and rhythmic underscoring – it’s a gem of a thing).
What it’s not, is logical. This is theatre you need to engage your brain to enjoy. I liked that. And yet it has a simple charm that makes it palatable. For the most part you can simply enjoy the obvious metaphor and the fun that Zinnie Harris’ ensemble cast bring to the stage.
It’s laugh out loud many times.
And it’s fresh as a daisy. Albeit one that’s grown through a cow pat.
Although this movie explores much trodden territory – a Catholic schoolgirl’s coming of age movie – it’s one for parents of around my age (50’s) rather than the teen lead it features. In that role Saiorse Ronan deservedly nets another Oscar nomination (sadly for her she is up against the imperious Frances McDormand and therefore cannot win) in a performance that is as real and as raw as any you’ll see this year.
But it’s not just Ronan’s performance that makes this the movie it is. It’s the triangular relationship between her (a disillusioned small town girl from Sacramento who dreams of the creativity and urban rawness of East Coast New York) her driven, ambitious (for her daughter) and seemingly hard-hearted, unemotional mother (Laurie Metcalfe) and her long-suffering, delightful father (Tracy Letts).
How the three deal with one another and how those relationships play out are at the heart of a movie that touches the heart-strings many times.
Take a hankie.
It’s not damning Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut with faint praise by describing it as nice because it really is, in the finest tradition of the word, a truly nice cinematic experience. It has grit, humour and emotion, but the overwhelming take out is just how ‘nice’ it is.
The first act is hilarious in which ‘Lady Bird’, the given name (given to herself) of Christine, her best friend Julie and her first boyfriends enact small time life, love and prom-going.
The setting, in an all girls’ Catholic High School, lends itself to much hilarity, with some excellently original rebellion. My favourite scene is where ‘Lady Bird’ and Julie scoff a tub of communion wafers whilst talking about sex. (“It’s OK. They’re not consecrated.”)
Although the gradual sexual fulfilment that Lady Bird experiences is nothing new Ronan’s performance keeps you interested, and when the consequences lead to confrontations and discussions between her and her parents – rarely acted out as a three hander because Mum and Dad lead separate (although still loving) lives – the movie reveals its depth.
It’s the relationship between mother and daughter that is the real dramatic grit in thi particular oyster. Here Gerwig teases out brilliance by both actors and it’s the result of this difficult ‘ambitious-mom’ tension that drives the movie.
As the film reaches its climax how that plays out is what results in the handkerchief moments and leaves you emotionally satisfied in a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts.