Imagine Vladimir and Estragon were women who got tired of waiting for Godot. Deciding on a road trip, they jump into a Land Rover, or Range Rover, or some other kind of rover, driving from the hilly confines of Powerscourt Hotel, Wicklow, along the M11 to Dublin. Herein lie the nuts and bolts of William Dunleavy’s "b(l)oom," the debut presentation by an ambitious new collective, tasteinyourmouth. If the title suggests a referencing of Joyce, its absurdist leanings are very much Beckett. All served up with an impressive, if heavy handed wordiness. One that might well have you wondering, at times, whether Dunleavy is really a novelist masquerading as a playwright.
Describing the imagined destruction of Dublin in near apocalyptic terms, the title serves as a double sided metaphor, proclaiming boom as both growth and destruction, and a blooming at the same time. An optimistic idea, or political naivety, Dunleavy’s well intentioned script soon starts leaning towards the latter, feeling politically less astute than it strives to be. For it’s a very specific Dublin that gets placed under Dunleavy’s absurdist scalpel. A Dublin that if it isn’t linked to the M11, it doesn’t appear to warrant consideration. A selective Dublin whose destruction is viewed from behind the insulated safety of a car window, inspired by a rush hour of crises that risk sounding cliched.
Delivered as a slow staccato of single words, short sentences, and stretched out passages, Dunleavy’s script deals in repeated motifs, cleverly observed banalities, and a litany of descriptive details, several surreal in nature. The whole achieving something of a neat circularity. Some of which is incredibly smart, some funny, some overwrought, while other parts overplay their hand. Yet all show a wonderful feel for the rhythmic interplay between words and sentences. So much so that Dunleavy’s love of the written word often dominates over theatricality, holding on far too tight to textual foundations. Like a novel where the author’s voice overwhelms everything else. An experience director Grace Morgan reinforces after an extremely bright start, with performers Laoise Murray and Heather O’Sullivan spending most of their time seated. Even allowing for the serious amount of driving taking place, the compositionally staid image reinforces a sense of hearing a reading at times. Despite some clever visual manipulations by Morgan courtesy of neat footwork and a packet of Twizzler styled liquorice. Leaving Rain Hamill’s underused set looking over designed, with two kegs and a plank carrying most of the heft, the symbolic scaffolding looking surplus to requirements.
What makes"b(l)oom" work are a hugely engaging Laoise Murray and Heather O’Sullivan. Their chemistry bringing a wealth of comic subtlety and richness which Morgan supports with aplomb, utilising the classic comedy formula of funny woman playing off a straight woman. The straight woman being an understated Murray, who nails it perfectly with a pared back expressiveness, while also showing some impressive range as a waitress during a dinner service. All of which leaves a sublime O’Sullivan to delight as the more recognisibly funny one, which O’Sullivan handles with captivating quirkiness. Revealing layers of detail with each expression and gesture, O’Sullivan proves magnetic and irresistible.
If "b(l)oom" is intent on tearing down the city, it arguably leaves very little in its place, beyond a feeling of déjà vu. Yet what it leaves behind is a promising young company. Dunleavy’s script might have its teething pains, and the whole might lack the visceral bite it aspires to, but "b(l)oom" shows some considerable talent at work. Dunleavy has spoken of being happy if an audience take home a word or an image with them. "b(l)oom" ensures they take home an awful lot more than that. Showing heart, talent, and some serious promise, along with two engaging performances, "b(l)oom" might not always find its feet, yet it never quite falls. Suggesting the if tasteinyourmouth aren’t ready to take the world by storm just yet, you wouldn’t bet against them doing so in the future.
"b(l)oom" by William Dunleavy, presented by tasteinyourmouth, run at The New Theatre until January 24.
For more information, visit The New Theatre.