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  • Chris ORourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2018: Split Ends

Lauren Larkin in Split Ends. Image by Cáit Fahey


Slices of Life

Lauren Larkin is nothing if not meticulous. Her pre-show preamble for “Split Ends,” developed as part of Show In A Bag, sees Larkin sitting on stage delivering what appears to be a short demonstration in method acting. Its own self-contained performance, Larkin’s preparation is rigorous and exacting, despite looking throwaway. Constantly re-adjusting her hair, playing with her earrings, singing to the Pet Shop Boys as she flicks thoughtfully through her magazine, Larkin’s detailed character study perfectly establishes “Split Ends'” hyper-realist world. One in which a sensitively observed tale of hairdresser Amy, and three of her regular clients, gradually unfolds.

In Split Ends, the salon she’s worked in since she was sixteen, Amy takes care of the hair dressing needs of an array of clients who also come to share their stories. A young girl preparing for holy communion, a woman whose mother is ill, another who could have sung cabaret and whose son can’t give her a grandchild all confide in Amy. And, of course, there’s Amy’s own story of struggling to have a child with her boyfriend Darren. Over the course of a year we watch as these lives evolve and change. Or else remain the same.

Throughout, Larkin’s minutely observed, hyper-realism celebrates Dubliners and their rich and humorous language. Indeed, Larkin’s deep love of language, of listening, and of catching the perfectly observed expression is palpable in every moment. Yet “Split Ends” is not guaranteed to appeal to everyone. Its slice of life approach sees its stories never going anywhere of real interest, the end moment being an exception, despite the motif of parents and children which runs deeply throughout. With little at stake dramatically, “Split Ends” can feel like being stuck in a room, feeling like an outsider, listening in rather than to the concerns of strangers who know each other well. Yet you’re also stuck in that room with Larkin whose performance, impeccably directed by Aisling Byrne, leaves you gobsmacked at the level of talent on display.

Like Tracey Ullman, Larkin can write both comedy and drama, as well as delivering outstanding performances of the highest calibre. Indeed, “Split Ends” confirms Larkin as a truly immense talent.

“Split Ends” by Lauren Larkin, part of Irish Theatre Institute, Dublin Fringe Festival, and Fishamble: The New Play Company’s Show In A Bag, runs at Bewley’s Theatre Cafe as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 22

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