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  • Chris O'Rourke

Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016: Glowworm

Glowworm by Umbrella Theatre Project

Photo credit: Christopher Lindhorst


Umbrella Theatre Project show and tell in Glowworm

Umbrella Theatre Project’s dense and detailed set design for their inaugural production ’Glowworm’ hits you the moment you enter the Project Cube. Resembling a Victorian study, with its books and bottles, bric-a-brac and pinned butterflies placed neatly on the shelves of the dimly lit stage, it looks as if realism is the way it intends to go. The reclining man asleep with his feet upon the large desk, a handkerchief over his face, seems perfectly at home there. However, the young girl curled up sleeping in a suitcase suggests realism might not be the way it’s going to go after all. Any uncertainty is soon resolved by the sight of another young woman sleeping while suspended from a coat rack. As lights go down, ‘Glowworm’ begins casting its spell to seduce, charm and captivate both young and old. And this it does with finesse and ease, transporting its audience to a place of magic and puppets, music and serious play, in what is likely to be one of the most charming and theatrically satisfying productions of the festival.

‘Glowworm’ follows the exploits of 16 years old entomologist, Zelle de Brulle, sitting at midnight by the fountain at the edge of Oxborough Gardens with the glow worm she’s just caught in her catching jar. Ordinarily she would switch her trapped insects to her killing jar without hesitation. She’s already done it 1,382 times. But the glow worm has prompted her to try find that memory of something really important buried under all the bric-a-brac of memories filling her head. Memories of tea parties and kisses, hornets and dragonflies, of wild eyed hysterics who just might know something and the most important thing she should never forget. But will she find it before the light of the glow worm fades?

Writer Tom Nieboer’s coming of age story about a young girl afraid to be different deftly explores issues of society and the individual, innocence and growing up, the fear and excitement of a budding sexual awakening as well as the need to be different yet needing to belong. Steeped in a love for Victorian literature, Neiboer’s script shows more than a hint of Penny Dreadful with its referencing of Dracula’s Renfield, Darwin's scientific classification, Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop and Lewis Carroll's Alice novels. Director Davey Kelleher does an excellent job in marrying the storytelling of Nieboer’s script with a showing theatricality that brings it wonderfully to life. His creative team of designer Hanna Bowe and John Brennan as Chief LX do an outstanding job. As do the three strong cast of Julie Maguire, Conor O’Riordian and Maria Guiver, whose theatrical and physical dexterity, ably supported by Bryan Burroughs, easily shifts between extremes, ranging from the stiffness of proper Victorian formality to the playfully humorous, the childlike to the erotically charged. All surrounded by an evocative, yet subtly understated score by Dylan Tonge Jones, who also plays live throughout the performance.

With ‘Glowworm’ as their premiere production, Umbrella Theatre Project have left their calling card, announcing themselves as serious theatre makers for the future. Built from a collective from the Lir Academy’s international MFA programme, the infrastructure seems to be there for them to go on to even bigger things. Indeed, a quarter of their programme is dedicated to thanking their many supporters. Whatever the future holds, right now, with ‘Glowworm,’ Umbrella Theatre Project have a little gem on their hands. So be advised, young or old, don't tell anyone about this show until you've bought at least two tickets for yourself. For ‘Glowworm’ is one of those shows you’ll most certainly want to see twice.

‘Glowworm' by Umbrella Theatre Project runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of The Tiger Dublin Fringe until September 17th

For information on times and tickets, visit Project Arts Centre or Tiger Dublin Fringe

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