All That Glitters Is Gold
Electric Picnic. A three day music and arts orgy fuelled by a wild, relentless energy, countless concerts, crappy camping, endless alcohol, and whatever substances you can get your hands on in the heart of rural Laois. Including Cadbury Golden Crisp bars. Who's headlining? Who cares. Electric Picnic is an opportunity to connect and reconnect with all types of music, with others, and even with yourself. A late summer experience where anything can happen and probably will. Where a glamper might well become friends with a glitter queen. Where you just might see that perfect stranger across a crowded field. Where eyes might lock, up close and personal, in the cozy claustrophobia of a cubicle. In Ali Hardiman’s astonishingly impressive comic debut, “ELECTRIC,” the only thing that hits you harder than it’s pulsating beats are two mind blowing performances by Hardiman and Ericka Roe, delivering wave after wave of unbelievable exuberance. Smart, funny, utterly engaging, with surprising subtlety and depth, “ELECTRIC” is not just irresistible good fun, it’s the closest thing to heaven you’re likely to experience for quite some time.
Over the course of a festival weekend, “ELECTRIC” follows good girl Scarlett, and wild child Joni, two girls from opposite sides of the Dublin tracks, brought together at the music festival that defines all music festivals, in Ireland at least. As is often the case opposites not only attract, they discover they may not be the opposites they initially thought they were. Both Scarlett and Joni have domineering best friends, both hang out with people they've no real connection with, and both feel essentially alone in the heart of the crowd. A chance encounter under extraordinary circumstances thrusts Scarlett, who doesn’t even want to be at the festival, together with veteran Joni, who knows all the festival’s hidden secrets. Escorting Scarlett on a journey down the Electric Picnic rabbit hole Joni discovers this crushingly dull, innocent abroad has a lot more to her than first meets the eye. But will their friends, and social backgrounds, prove insurmountable? And what of this strange attraction these two straight girls feel for one another?
With “ELECTRIC,” writer Ali Hardiman announces herself as someone to certainly keep an eye on. A script rich with humour and humanity, “ELECTRIC” crafts an intelligent comic tale of friendship, attraction, and class prejudice, with its snobbery and inverted snobbery. Throughout, Hardiman’s superb rendering of dialects is beautifully realised, with Hardiman and Roe, as Scarlett and Joni respectively, also performing all additional supporting characters, journeying through virtual nuns, aura loving earth mothers, sneery best friends, and a karaoke session to die for.
All that being said, "ELECTRIC's" rushed ending might hit the target, but it misses its mark somewhat. An ending we don’t so much arrive at as collide into, blacking out into a sudden, premature stop. Right at the quintessential moment you’ve been travelling towards, you find you’re being pulled away from it, as if the script is afraid to embrace the experience. Talking the talk, the end doesn’t quite walk the walk, feeling hurried and out of step. Yet this pales in comparison to “ELECTRIC’s” obvious strengths, and its two staggeringly brilliant performances by Ali Hardiman as Scarlett, and Ericka Roe as Joni.
Director Clare Maguire does an impressive job in supporting Hardiman and Roe’s naturally expressive talents. Ursula McGinn’s set design is a revelation in simplicity and effect. Dreamcatchers, coloured ticker tape, low hanging lanterns and lampshades all evoke the rave and chillout spirit Hardiman’s script is aiming for, ably supported by Shane Gill’s lighting design and Sam Hardiman’s original compositions. Whether the decision of director McGuire, designer McGinn, or of Hardiman herself, the transformation of the waiting area in Theatre Upstairs into a glitter tent where you can get your face glittered up for free, courtesy of Alicky Hess and Connie Doona, as well as receiving your arm band for admission, is a stroke of pre-show genius.
“ELECTRIC” leaves no doubt that both Hardiman and Roe are staggeringly impressive young talents. So don’t miss this gilt edged opportunity to catch what are, unquestionably, two of Ireland’s rising stars in one of the most delightful experiences of the summer. Catch them now before they take the world by storm. And laugh, smile, then laugh some more at “ELECTRIC,” an infectiously joyous, forty-five minutes of bliss.
“ELECTRIC” by Ali Hardiman, produced by ILA Productions in association with Theatre Upstairs, runs at Theatre Upstairs until May 5th
For more information, visit Theatre Upstairs