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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition - Will I See You There

Will I See You There. Image by Anthony O'Connor.

All The World's Their Stage

In murmuration's production Will I See You There, all the world's their stage. Or, at least, Meeting House Square is, serving as the perfect backdrop for this ingeniously well-told play. Reuniting the team behind the joyous Summertime, writer James Elliott again joins Finbar Doyle and Danielle Galligan, the latter credited as co-deviser, to fashion a tale where listening is at least as important as seeing. Along with Nessa Matthews, and the entire murmuration company, Elliott, Doyle and Galligan deliver a small story with a big heart built around a brave and brilliant premise: tell a story to a private audience from a public space. A story which asks how can we hope be there for one another when we're so badly crippled by our own pain?

Living up to the company's name, Will I See You There opens with a lot of murmurs. Heard through headphones from the socially distanced confines of the Gallery of Photography. Here the audience sit facing a screen. As the curtain screen is lifted the windowed distance makes voyeurs of us all. Like witnesses at an execution, the audience peer down at the curtain peeped square with its pigeons, people, and passers-by. And an engaging Finbar Doyle as Fin, sitting, reading Sartre, with a bag by his side. He's waiting for a call from someone he's hoping to meet. Yet the very person he hopes never to meet is about to stroll into Meeting House Square. Walk on by, or walk this way, the troubled Dee has just returned from Berlin; a measured performance by an equally engaging Nessa Matthews. Should she say something to Fin about the last time they spoke, when she called needing a friend? 

Examining themes of home, friendship, and failure, especially our failure to communicate, there's many things to admire about this bittersweet production. Yet its innocuous story isn't necessarily one of them. Structurally similar to Summertime, this lightweight tale of crossed wires and lost connections again sees characters trying to deal with something left unspoken. Yet, in this instance, if things become different, nothing really changes, with its adorable characters stepping aside to make way for the heavy handed moral of the story, which risks eclipsing all else. Throughout, a mic-ed Doyle and Matthews do superb work playing fictional characters in a real world environment, all of which ensures you never see the same performance twice.

Immersive yet distant, clear yet confused, Will I See You There finds Elliott and co. pushing their theatrical boundaries. Relayed through headphones, along with Jennifer O'Malley's effectively understated sound design, a cacophony of competing monologues set against fractured dialogue allow inner worlds to viscerally converge in the listener's mind. Out on the square, the public immediacy presents challenges director John King handles with aplomb, including a well paced memory sequences whose simplicity proves incredibly effective. Performing live in a public space without the public's awareness, mic-ed in yet separate from the audience, performances ripple with added tension due to the unpredictability of it all. Indeed, Monday's 1.00pm performance delivered a wonderful happenstance right at the end to which Finbar Doyle responded beautifully, inadvertently suggesting another layer to Fin in response to a real time event. Whose details can't be revealed for being a spoiler. 

Despite the openness of the performance space, framing is still very much in play, with the often curious, puzzled glances of passers-by begging some fascinating questions as to who is watching what, and watching who? Indeed, as theatrical experiences go, Will I See You There raises some fascinating questions about theatre, space, audience and framing, as well as those questions its modest story concerns itself with. Ensuring there is something that little bit special about the Will I See You There experience. A lightweight, bittersweet tale, Will I See You There is a theatrical treat, likely to lodge in the memory for many years to come. Deserving of a much longer run just as soon as conditions allow.

Will I See You There, presented by murmuration, written by James Elliott and the company, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition at Gallery of Photography, Meeting House Square, until September 9.

For further information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2020: Pilot Light Edition.


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