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  • Chris ORourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2019: Making A Mark

Making A Mark.  Image by Luca Truffarelli


He’s Got The Power

Mark Smith is almost 40. He’s worked in Tesco, Maynooth, for twenty years. He won silver at The World Games. Mark is a theatre maker, a singer, and a dancer. Mark also has Down Syndrome. In “Making A Mark” written and directed by Shaun Dunne, and developed in collaboration with Aisling Byrne and Mark himself, Mark intends on making his mark. And he does just that. Indeed, if “Making A Mark” is all about power, it makes theatre itself the most empowering act of all. And reveals Mark as one seriously committed talent.

Like Blue Teacup's excellent Sanctuary, "Making A Mark" offers insight into lives we don't often get to see. And works best when the person themselves are onstage. With Dunne’s well intentioned writing straddling the personal political divide, and with Byrne’s onstage interactions looking uncomfortably like an interrogative psychiatric session at times, or a life coach issuing positive reinforcement, Mark really shines when both get out of his way. Yet, like key workers in lived-in accommodation, they need to be there, ensuring “Making A Mark” delivers context. Reminding you that Mark’s life isn’t a sanitised Disney story built around a context entirely of his own making. It's a life hard won.

Those familiar with Dunne’s work with Talking Shop Ensemble will notice many of his hallmarks: the repetitive, fact based language, the sparse but striking props and visuals. But it speaks to Dunne’s generosity of spirit that these never come to dominate, leaving ample room for Aisling Byrne of Run of the Mill Theatre to also have her expressive say. Yet if both Byrne and Dunne exude a definite presence, it’s Mark who ultimately owns the stage, relaying autobiographical experiences and personal aspirations that never ask for your indulgence. Instead, they make you sit up and take notice.

Even so, focus on difficulties such as name calling, often feel like they’re straining to make a point which Mark isn’t prepared to be defined or confined by. For Mark is all about life and people, being a big, boastful, if sometimes belligerent hunk of love. Just ask his assistant. But Mark is unafraid to show his unvarnished side too. With his Bane-like face apparatus, and his self-confessed flashes of temper, or boundary issues, which he controls, Mark knows some people might think him odd. But he knows, too, that this speaks to them and not to him. And he knows how to gently take that power back. For this is a man who can play King Lear on stage. Or make you feel privileged to hear his heartfelt rendition of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, likely to shatter any preconceived prejudices.

What is very much in evidence in “Making A Mark” is that Dunne and Byrne have huge love and respect for their fellow rising star. A performer for whom the only thing bigger than his ego is his talent. And the only thing bigger than that is his heart. Cathartic and delightful, “Making A Mark” makes you see the world differently. And cedes centre stage to an exciting talent. Prepare to be suitably impressed.

“Making A Mark” written and directed by Shaun Dunne, and developed in collaboration with Aisling Byrne and Mark Smith, presented by Talking Shop Ensemble and Run of the Mill Theatre, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 at The Project Arts Centre until September 14.

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