Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016: TRYST
Photo credit: Christopher Lindhorst
A profoundly simple premise. Three characters facing a very 21st century dilemma, played out in real time. In tackling its provocative and deeply human crisis, writers Jeda de Brí and Finbarr Doyle bravely open a Pandora's box in ‘TRYST,’ but then go running for cover. Which is such a shame, for despite some strong performances and a script full of promise, ‘TRYST’ isn't all it might have been. For it could, and should have been one of the sensations of the festival, if only it knew when to stop talking.
There’s echoes of ‘Friends,’ ‘This Life’ and even ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ in ‘TRYST’, all reimagined for the Wiki, Pinterest, game playing digital age as three college friends move into adulthood, facing the new shapes their lives and relationships might take. Set over the course of a single morning, soon to be married Matt and Steph nurse hangovers as they psyche themselves up for the last few days of wedding arrangements. As they negotiate who will do what and when, bridesmaid Rachel arrives with a little announcement with big consequences. In what follows, three people come to terms with the consequence of a threesome, with the bun in the oven not belonging to the bride to be. Three friends, who tell each other everything, discover they really haven’t told each other anything as they set about attempting to emotionally eviscerate one another in a spin the bottle blame game. As the morning progresses they talk and talk, then talk some more, until ‘TRYST’ doesn't so much end as run out of words. Coming to a somewhat pathetic stop, like a natural break rather than an ending, ‘TRYST’s’ neat and tidy soap opera ultimately falls short, all because it let the words get in the way.
While director Jeda de Brí’s staging negotiates the space well, her direction is not all it might have been. ‘TRYST’s’ script deals in the realm and depth of the poetic, in channelling raw primal forces, but de Brí, who is also co-writer with Finbarr Doyle, reins everything in, reducing it all to the vocabulary of the counselling session. As if it could explain everything away, ‘TRYST' takes something raw and visceral and attempts to argue it, debate it, reason and rationalise it, talking it to death. As if by laying out all the reasons it will finally yield the reason. Might as well try reason out Hamlet.
Yet all that’s lost, all that's not there, is right there on stage in three incredible, if ultimately problematic performances. It’s right there in Clodagh Mooney Duggan’s eyes and arms, eye’s always brimming on the verge of bursting, arms pressed rigidly against her thighs. In Katie McCann’s exceptional jaw clenching expressions. In Finbarr Doyle’s restless urgency seeking release. Their sense of restraint is palpable, as if what lies underneath desperately needs expression. But it's always reined in, its crackling energy always buried deep and hidden tight behind a barrage of words and arguments that attempt to comprehend it all. As if afraid of the very thing its uncovered or of descending into simple histrionics. Talking incessantly, it's as if all the wild forces behind Albee’s 'Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf' were reduced to trading politically correct justifications and tossing a drink in someone’s face. If only the floodgates had opened.
‘TRYST’ strikes at the messy core of 21st century humanity and should have been the stuff great drama is made of. Yet what should have been a classic in the making, a work that gives expression to the voice of its generation, gets lost in endless reasonings and words. What remains is still stirring, better than many new drama’s currently on offer, with well managed staging and powerful performances. But what could, and should have been, screams for release, haunting this production with its unfulfilled promise.
‘TRYST’ by Sickle Moon Productions runs at The Lir Academy as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe until September 24th