Fool for Love

concordeI had the good fortune to see a most remarkable production this week – Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love,” a production of Théâtre des Cybèle directed in French by Kevin Orr, a professor in the theatre department at the University of Ottawa, and it’s set in a remarkably seedy motel room on Montreal Road in Vanier. It’s a play about love, rage and jealousy and it’s set, yes, in a seedy motel room. The audience – there’s room for 12 of us – are seated on folding metal chairs lining the walls of the room, and we are thoroughly in the midst of the action of the play – audience members are asked to make sure to stay out of the actors’ way as they rush about the room. It’s claustrophobic, visceral, emotionally charged, and a thoroughly exceptional piece of theatre. Bravo to the actors, Nathaly Charrette, Yves Turbide, Paul Rainville, and Nicolas Desfossés.

Don’t understand French? Doesn’t matter. Immersed in that motel room, you can’t help but figure out what you need to know just by watching the actors, their faces, their gestures. When I was in Dublin last year I saw a production of Sam Shepard’s “True West”; the year before, I caught “The Curse of the Starving Class at the Abbey”. But in spite of being English-language performances, neither Irish production seemed to quite capture the essence of Shepard – either the despair of the characters or the idiom of the playwright’s language – the way this one did. So bravo too to the translator, Michèle Magny.

It’s a limited run to May 1 and with only 12 seats I suspect there aren’t many more tickets available – but if the opportunity presents itself, grab it!

Galatea Coda

Although my reason for being in Ireland this month was to join the tour of “Galatea,” I was hoping I might also have the opportunity to see a bit of someone else’s theatre as well. So after my show closed in Derry, I made my way to the town of Enniskillen, not too far from Sligo, home to the new “Happy Days” Samuel Beckett festival. (The playwright went to school in the town.) There I saw Robert Wilson‘s production of Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape,” which he has been touring for the last few years; this was his only Irish appearance.

Idiosyncratic and brilliant, it draws its audience in with a stupendously loud crash of thunder and an extended rainstorm on a monochromatic set that tells you this performance will not be a brief one. Krapp appears in whiteface. He moves about the stage slowly. He eats a banana, and then another one. And then, after an eternity of moments has passed, he speaks.

This is theatre that is unabashedly theatrical, and it is remarkable to watch Wilson, who is now 70 years old – about Krapp’s age, come to think of it – carry it with such aplomb. The enthusiastic applause from the audience suggests that he hit his mark perfectly, and on emerging from his black and white world into the wildly green Irish countryside all I could do was try and process what I’d seen.

Wilson’s website offers additional images from the production. Of course, they don’t do justice to the show, but they do give a small sense of what it’s like. If it should be playing somewhere nearby, go see it!

From Enniskillen I made my way to Dublin, where I paid a visit to the Smock Alley Theatre, tucked in a tiny road on the edge of Temple Bar off the river Liffey. The Smock Alley prides itself on being one of the oldest theatres  in the English-speaking world, having been established in 1662 after the restoration of Charles II,like the Drury Lane in London.

I had seen shows there in years past, but this was my first chance to see what the place looked like since a major refurbishment that was completed earlier this year. As it happens, a young new company called Ramblinman was offering a production of Sam Shepard’s “True West,” which I thought would be fun to see. (Last year, I saw a production of “The Curse of the Starving Class” at the Abbey.)  It seems that in Dublin as in Ottawa recent graduates from acting programs find that the most opportune way to get on stage is to produce. In this instance the actors brought great enthusiasm, talent and energy to the play, and though one could quibble about certain choices they or the director made I found myself excited that they were having a go, and if I were living in Dublin I’d be very interested to see what they come up with next.

Finally, a friend suggested that I indulge in a midday excursion to the National Concert Hall – largely because the first item on the program was The Beautiful Galathea by Suppé.  The concert was delightful – a fitting coda for the tour.