- Chris O'Rourke
Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: 24/7 Bliss
24/7 Bliss. Image by Issey Goold.
There’s no other way to say it. Iseult Deane's 24/7 Bliss is a nightmare in white. It's daft as a brush. An exercise into how to make a long story longer. A cocktail of disparate ingredients, like coffee, triple sec and sewer water. It's an unmitigated mess looking for a home. Yet it's impossible to resist its weird, daft heart.
What's wrong with it? Try story and characters for a start. Marina, all marshmallow colours and story telling, looking like she escaped from a kids toy box, runs a 24 hour dry cleaners which seems to have a fetish for predominantly white clothes. As she waits for customers she listens avidly to Andrew Murphy on digital radio, a composer and weatherman who makes Eeyore look positively exciting. Resembling an earlier version of The Dude before the weed kicked in, Anthony broadcasts his music from a house blocked from sunlight. He's complained to the council, but no prizes for guessing how that turned out. Which is probably why his endless music is painfully maudlin. Similiar to having to endure a double disc, durational album for mindfulness training. If you’ve ever done a mindfulness exercise at the end of a long day, you know where that can lead.
24/7 Bliss. Image by Owen Clarke.
Into the mix jumps Cliodhna, looking as if she’s slowly emerging from a catatonic state, shuffling around like a bewildered sonambulist, keening like a bug eyed banshee when Oscar enters the shop. The bitchy, no nonsense personal assistant of a movie star drawn to the two women. In what follows, a neat twist facilities a modest study in loneliness and options for more clever barminess, which are never really exploited. Had things ended there, or shortly after, much would have been gained. But events drag on and add little. Like that awkward conversation you don't seem to know how to end. Such as the one between music and text, with text looking likes it's scoring the music and not the other way round, with both looking vastly overwritten.
All that said, 24/7 Bliss is one of the more imaginative, risk taking, and unafraid to be weird productions of the Fringe. Granted, playwright Deane could do with some lessons in craft, but she has something going on. Yet director Deane might learn from letting an outside director help her hone what that might be, and teach her some basics in direction. Conor Murray (Oscar) and Ellen Finnerty (Cliodhna) both deliver well, as does Sam Killian as Anthony. Killian also composing the score for the entire hour and twenty minutes. Genuinely sounding like a New Age meditation album, it has some nice moments, yet it soon becomes problematic. Feeling unnecessarily durational, overpowering voices on too many occasions, and setting a single, solitary mood that restricts alternate interpretations, it lacks the range or depth to captivate. Alone, maybe it might be different. But surrounded by Caoimhe Coburn Gray's superb set and Deane's busy story, it competes rather than compliments for not stepping back enough, or not stepping up enough.
Mazana Ronaldson in 24/7 Bliss. Image by Owen Clarke
All of which leaves Mazana Ronaldson as little miss dynamite, Marina. Ronaldson, looking a consummate natural, is the best thing about this production: a real revelation in terms of range and expressiveness. And that's another ingredient that's makes 24/7 Bliss a cockeyed joy: the revelation of new theatre lunatics trying something different. Trying to find a form and a voice. Making an utter bloody mess of it at times, but striking gold enough to leave you thinking; I want to see what this lot do next. Never dull. Never uninteresting. Good places to start.
24/7 Bliss by Iseult Deane, presented by Bluehouse Theatre, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival at Smock Alley Theatre until September 17.
For more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2022