Ciara has some serious issues. So has Bríd. But theirs pale in comparison to the issues plaguing “Sink” by John O’Donovan. A meandering, one woman monologue in which two stories bleed into one, “Sink” excavates the past because things buried alive never stay buried. Like bones in a bog on a hot summers day, they’re likely to resurface looking to be addressed. Leaving you in the middle of something of a hot mess. Which is exactly what “Sink” becomes by the time it's over, despite hinting of such promise on numerous occasions.
Skirting suicide, short term memory loss, battles with alcoholism, and déjà vu, to name but a few, the men, women and children of “Sink” certainly have their traumas to tell. Only they’re not always very well told. Rather, like the mind of an unfocused marathon runner, O’Donovan’s tale rushes here and there, stringing together various bits and pieces to contrive something resembling a story. One involving the site of some bones found in a Midlands bog, around which memories and impressions blur and converge as moments of insight arise. Smart as many of those insights are, they’re not enough to really make you care when they finally do arrive. And what little you do care has more to do with an impressive debut by Rachel Fenney, and a hugely effective light design by Cillian McNamara which does most of the heavy, visual lifting. Beyond which “Sink” pretty much sinks into a monotonous pace, pausing for the occasional water break, before stumbling blind across the finish line.
If director Thomas Martin, along with O’Donovan, enjoy playing within confined spaces, as in their hugely impressive If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You, they take it to a whole new level with “Sink.” One where less really is decidedly less. With Feeney trapped on a plinth-like pedestal, performatively straight jacketed like a talking statue, a visual gimmick that barely sustains itself for the first ten minutes becomes tedious after over an hour. A pyrrhic defeat, Martin’s constraining of Fenney’s expressiveness comes at a huge cost, but with none of the Beckettian like benefits. Something Feeney, making her professional debut, handles with deft assurance. Yet a tendency to constantly look stage left, coupled with far off distant gazes during key moments, leaves a large portion of the audience, already reduced from spectators to listeners, feeling like eavesdroppers. Which is criminal, for when Fenney momentarily works the room you know she could own it, hinting of a talent that might have really blown things out of the water had she been let loose to show what she can really do.
Starting at the end, “Sink” pretty much ends as a visual concern shortly after the beginning. An exploration of overwhelming feelings delivered in an underwhelming production, “Sink” becomes so visually sparse it might as well have been an audiobook. Were it not for an impressive Feeney, even when reduced to being essentially a voice box, and McNamara’s astonishingly good lighting design, there would be nothing of interest to see. Feeling like being stuck on a bus listening to somebody you really wish wasn’t there, wasn’t such hard work, or made more sense, “Sink” asks for an awful lot of your indulgence, giving too little back in return.
“Sink” by John O’Donovan, presented by One Duck, runs at Smock Alley Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 until Sept 15.
For more information, visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 or Smock Alley Theatre.