More Than Words
The moment it begins, Ronan Dempsey’s latest play, “The Words Are There,” asks for a little indulgence. A moment or two of your patience for, like a fine wine, “The Words Are There” needs a moment or two to breathe. To just be, to settle, so it can better release its full-bodied flavours. At various moments throughout it will again ask for momentary breaths, but by that time you will be too absorbed to notice. Too captivated beneath its irresistible spell, marvelling at this great reckoning in a little room taking place before you, realising you are witnessing something more than just a little bit special.
In a small, dingy room in beautiful Bettystown, a lone man awaits, as silent as the grave, dressed in worn clothes as battered and tattered as his soul. Soon Trish will return, and he’s eager, or desperate, to make sure she feels welcomed. Around him, Gordan Ramsey rants in expletives while spilt wine pools like blood on the floor, hinting at an undercurrent of old violence, and of open wounds, lying just below the silence. As he tries to remember and refashion the past, hoping they both can escape its hell and embrace its promise, the question looms; will this gentle Pygmalion fashion his perfect Galatea, or will it be Frankenstein’s bride who walks through the door ready to spurn her monster?
Sensitively and powerfully exploring abuse and domestic violence, especially domestic violence towards men, “The Words Are There” explores what for many remains a taboo subject, recognising the mental, emotional and physical violence men can sometimes be subjected to. But themes alone do not make for great theatre, and "The Words Are There" is a first class example of how to make great theatre. Looking at times like a mix of street, mime and performance artist, Ronan Dempsey, who performs, writes and directs, ensures his rich physical vocabulary remains true to his character and shows little of the actor's technique. Polish is sacrificed for purity, and potency is the result. A searingly beautiful, goose bumps giving performance, even if it is, on the rare occasion, almost upstaged by the unnaturally thin Trish, rendered vocally by Jessica Leen. Sound design by Gavin Hennessy, and lighting design by Brian Nutley, are astonishingly good, made more so by the spilt second timing required throughout, where light, sound, and performance turn in a fraction of a moment, always perfectly realised. All of which is informed by a beautiful, uncredited soundtrack, rumoured to be by Dempsey, that is haunting and heart breaking in equal measure.
“The Words Are There” is a little like a world cinema, cult classic movie. Word of mouth spreads at first, raving about how great this lesser known gem is, until soon everyone is talking about it. Everyone will want to see it, and those who miss it regret that they didn't go when they had the chance. Don't deal in regret. If you only see one new show this month, go see “The Words Are There.” It is soul stirringly good.
“The Words Are There” by Ronan Dempsey, presented by The Nth Degree and Theatre Upstairs, runs at Theatre Upstairs until May 20th.
For more information, visit Theatre Upstairs