Photo credit: Red Bear Productions
Dark clouds gather along the Coast
‘Coast,’ by writer and director Tracy Martin, takes place over the course of a day in a coastal town where four damaged souls seek some sort of release. These are the souls who care, but have no one to really care for them. Two men, two women, their individual stories connect them in shared experiences of isolation and despair. Smacking with more than a hint of the frustrated social worker, ‘Coast’ is a powerful interrogation of what happens when the needs of a person aren’t properly met. If it’s all a little too neat in places, its almost musically structured monologues are ingeniously crafted, and its powerful themes are given great voice by four incredible performances.
In ‘Coast,’ Gerry, a dog walking alcoholic, wants to touch again and be touched. Karl, a lady of leisure, says he wants a job. Carol wants her mother, crippled with dementia, to go into a home and Anne Marie doesn’t quite know what she wants, she only knows that she can’t handle it anymore. As the day nears its end their respective lives reach breaking point, forcing some to make hard decisions. All are drawn inexorable towards the sea, as if being drawn towards the very edge of the world, and of life itself.
In Tracy Martin’s wonderfully taut script, character is heavily determined by sexual stereotypes. The men, in their efforts to avoid asking for what they need, resort to porn, whiskey and violence, while the women resort to martyrdom, sacrificing their own needs for the needs of others. Both are embedded in deeper, social types, namely those afflicted by failing and under resourced social services. Those needing mental health services, services for the elderly, those suffering addiction, those unemployed. Yet if the issues and types are always present, informing both story and character, they never overwhelm. Indeed, structurally, Martin masterfully weaves her monologues into something larger than just the words, creating a mood and atmosphere greater than each character, yet informed by, and embracing, all. With monologues often serving as internal dialogues between conflicting needs and wants, Martin’s verbal choreography is sublimely done, with an almost musical harmonisation between the interplay of monologues. Yet 'Coast's' verbal choreography is not always matched by its physical choreography, which can sometimes feel a little underplayed. But when text and movement do combine, it yields some stunningly powerful moments.
Ciara Murnane’s set design is evocative rather than literal, and along with Fiona Shiels soundscape, does a neat job in evoking the cold desolation at the heart of ‘Coast.' All of which is ably supported by Susannah Cummins' lighting design and Mary Sheehan’s costumes, which add subtle layers of detail and depth. Wrestling with repressed forces surging up from inside, and that effort to always keep a lid on it, Camille Lucy Ross as Carol, and Aoibhéann McCann as Anne Marie, do an outstanding job as two women on the brink of losing it. Gordon Quigley as the powerless Karl in desperate need of control, or release, or of just being able to take charge for a while, is utterly compelling. As is Donncha O’Dea as Gerry, the soft spoken man with wounds too deep for him to even acknowledge, in an absolutely stand out performance.
Hinting at, rather than offering hope, ‘Coast’ explores its darker themes by way of ingeniously woven monologues delivered by four top notch performances. Writer and director Tracy Martin certainly asks a lot of her audience, but in a stunningly powerful work, she more than repays their investment. Dark, disturbing and deeply moving, ‘Coast’ is a riveting piece of theatre.
‘Coast’ written and directed by Tracy Martin, and produced by Red Bear Productions, runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of The Tiger Dublin Fringe until September 24th
For more information, visit The Project Arts Centre or Tiger Dublin Fringe