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Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition - Before You Say Anything


Before You Say Anything. Image Molly O'Cathain

She Sells Sanctuary


'In my head there's a universe,' Maeve O'Mahony chants with liturgical solemnity, striding down the aisle of the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle with funereal gravitas. In MALAPROP'S Before You Say Anything, written by Dylan Coburn Gray and MALAPROP, and running as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition, there are a number of heads, and universes, but no loving God to be found in any of them. Yet left to our secular devices, we're even worse at taking care of each other. Built from three short tales, MALAPROP's provocation asking how can we all stay safe at the same time transitions through the failure of the spiritual to the failure of the secular to offer shelter and safe haven. Including The State, who sell sanctuary when those responsible for our safety threaten the well being of our most vulnerable.  


If Jennifer O'Malley's droning, three note score underscores a brooding mood at the outset, Peter Corboy dashing nude up the aisle, clutching his clothes like some discovered lover, punctures it without letting all the heavy air out. Indeed, dressing as a Victorian man about town, a camp Corboy relates his character's experience of being gay with beguiling charm. Jump forward a century and Ghaliah Conroy rushes into a church seeking refuge from an abusive husband minus her clothes. Meeting a caring priest, another superb turn by Corboy, this second tale proves the weakest of the three, with Conroy functioning mainly to set up questions for Corboy's gay priest struggling to be all he can be for others.


If there's a notable absence of nudity opening the third tale, that might well be because the nakedness this tale references speaks to the horrific treatment of journalist Dara Quigley, to whom the show is dedicated, by members of An Garda Síochána in 2017. Filmed naked on CCTV walking in a distressed state along Harcourt Street, Quigley was taken into preventive custody where CCTV images of her were posted to Facebook and a WhatsApp Group by members of An Garda Síochána. Shortly afterwards Quigley committed suicide. To this date, no member of An Garda Síochána has been held accountable for the images posted online.


While Before You Say Anything has a political bone to pick, theatrically it doesn't always come together as well as it might in picking it. Flashing past, its use of nudity looks uncomfortable and awkward, never speaking to either vulnerability or desperation. Something director Claire O'Reilly struggles to get to grips with in a production which might go nude but rarely gets naked. Yet when O'Reilly finds her anger, her cast can hit, and hit hard. Peter Corboy is simply brilliant throughout, and Maeve O'Mahony may not do much, but when she bursts forth in a torrent of rage she sweeps all away in her pain. Dancer, Ghaliah Conroy, convinces far more compellingly when she moves, even if her simple patterned sequences don't always ignite choreographically. Yet when they do Conroy brings an added dimension, along with the liturgical style singing, that makes for a far richer theatrical experience.


One whose impact is greatly influenced by where you sit. With action taking place in the aisle, functioning as a traverse, placing people at opposite ends of pews because of social distancing has its issues. If you're on the aisle, you're golden, with a terrific view of the action, along with Molly O'Cathain's design and Suzie Cummins' lights. Sitting by the wall you can often be faced with compromised sight lines and problem acoustics, left grasping at what you can, when you can. So get there early, but not too early, to secure the best seats. 


MALAPROP, along with Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition deserve huge credit for having the resilience and perseverance to keep going, despite several body blows.  Staying strong to bring live performances back to the city. Which they do in some style. For, if visually less than ideal in places, thanks to social distancing, Before You Say Anything is richer than its restrictions, delivering a thought provoking, theatrical experience.


Before You Say Anything, written by Dylan Coburn Great and MALAPROP, presented by MALAPROP, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition at the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle.

September 5 to September 11 - 6.00pm and 9.00pm.


For more information, visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition.

© 2016 Chris O'Rourke