A message in search of a medium, “Afloat” by Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan kicks off with all the tension of a disaster movie. Then dips in and out of being a sitcom that stumbles sporadically into what appears to be some sort of TEDTalk. It’s all over the place, talking about the environment by way of an uneasy relationship between two unfriendly best friends. Like the disaster it references, “Afloat” seems to be courting disaster itself. Yet if you see only one more show on the environment this year, make it “Afloat.” A funnier, smarter, more enlightening show on the environment you’re unlikely to see.
Built on a central conceit of two people trapped on the top of Liberty Hall following a tsunami, “Afloat” looks likes it might well be about to drown. Yet not all is as it seems, with O’Connor and Ryan proving to be far smarter storytellers than might first appear. The last two people alive in Dublin, Debs has all the answers to all the problems. Bláthnaid, a woman with a sense of superiority bigger than the building they find themselves on, is inclined to disagree. Amidst all the talk of who did what to whom, and why they didn’t act faster to save the planet, it becomes clear that the biggest thing uniting them is their mirrored sense of victimhood. In between bitching and bickering ad nauseam, till it begins to feel like a one trick pony, some gentle audience interaction, courtesy of Michael-David McKernan, offers some light relief. Momentary interruptions to ask about global warming, about the environment, with a lot of ‘did you knows’ you might not have actually known. Leaving you with a lot to ponder. Such as is it too late? Who are the real culprits? What is Dublin really like? And why hasn’t one of these girls killed the other or just thrown themselves into the sea? Might it all have something to do with denial?
If direction by Ryan is often smart, poor transitions between scenes often lets it down. Yet O’Connor and Annette O'Shea as Bláthnaid and Debs, "Afloat's" environmentally unfriendly friends, pull all the disparate elements into something thought provoking and engaging, courtesy of two compelling performances. Cleverly ensuring that the saturation of information makes you stop and think. Ably assisted by Michael-David McKernan as the mysterious man with the microphone.
Lee Evans joked that he wrongly thought all the lights in Vegas and Blackpool were leading to global warming, but in actual fact it was his little red light on the TV. “Afloat” recognises both as problems. Indeed, in “Afloat” there’s things we know we need to do, and others we might not know. Things we might wonder if we’re able to do, and others that might be for someone else to do. And then there’s the fun, and the sublime twist in the tale that might just give cause for hope. Fun, thought-provoking, with two deceptively captivating performances, “Afloat” makes its serious points heard for never taking itself too seriously.
“Afloat” by Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan, presented by Sunday's Child, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 at Smock Alley Theatre until Sept 22.
For more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 or Smock Alley Theatre