- Chris O'Rourke
Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Lie Low
Lie Low by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth at Dublin Fringe Festival 2022. Image by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth and Evan Flynn
The world's no longer post #MeToo, it's also post #JohnnyDeppAmberHeard. A tension Ciara Elizabeth Smyth explores in Lie Low. A play about sexual trauma, genital identity parades and ejaculatory Rice Krispies. And don't forget duck masks. If that sounds irreverent, blame Smyth. Or rather, praise her. In Lie Low, Smyth uses dark, comic intrigues to prowl about the shadowed outskirts of taboo. Hilarious because it's not funny. Funny because it's so serious. Unsettling because Smyth refuses to serve up easy answers in a world often demanding them.
If Smyth's ideas interweave like wisps of smoke, structurally her script is like a neatly stacked pile of bricks. Individual sections making no attempt to hide their distinctiveness, like a badly written manual on how to write a play. A dream/memory sequence establishes context. Followed by Q&A with a disembodied voice handling exposition. Here we learn Faye was assaulted and is unable to sleep, suffering from vivid nightmares. The arrival of Naoise, Faye's brother, kicks the play off properly as he gets drawn into Faye's bewildering attempts to relive her trauma in order to be rid of it. A reversal half way through flips everything as reversals are supposed to. Followed by a powerful denouement which, if brave, still doesn't come as much of a surprise. The ending tidied up with a circular return to Q&A and a dream/fantasy sequence to bring it all home. Or leave you more befuddled.
Smyth's script isn't her tightest, or clearest, but it negotiates where accused can become accuser, the abused an abuser. Where nightmares are reality and reality a nightmare. Where the absurd sounds reasonable and the reasonable absurd. Its lack of clear resolution might seem like a cop out, but it's smarter and braver than that. And Smyth answers two questions with certainty. The first concerns whether Naoise does or doesn't have something to hide, the only textual question she does address, and boy does she address it. The second whether Smyth is shaping into a writer of some stature, maturing with each new play? The evidence finds her guilty of potential greatness.
Under Oisín Kearney's direction, Lie Low's tone is beautifully conveyed, with lights switching mood as much as place. Michael Patrick's Naoise might play second fiddle to Faye, leaning too heavily into being something of a gombeen, but crucial moments see the life-draining Naoise hitting home with considerable power. All of which invests Charlotte McCurry's vital and vivid Faye with even more eccentric, energetic exuberance. Not that McCurry needed the help. McCurry being the class of actor who, if the role is good, she'll make it great. McCurry the air that breathes life into Smyth's script. Tone, expression and movement articulating Faye's sleep-deprived, real and unreal universe so vividly you can almost see it. McCurry serving up a monster of a performance whether walking, talking, or dancing. A masterclass in how to make the incredible credible in what may prove to be one of the standout performances of the festival.
Full of cultural wear and tear, Lie Low's humour throws light into dark places, making it easier to look where we might often look away. Even as some aspects aren't fleshed out. We hear of a kiss but not what happened after the kiss. Who stayed, walked away, pushed away; making judgements near impossible. It's exhausting at times. We never have enough information. How are we supposed to make sense of it?
One suspect's Smyth is smirking into her wine glass somewhere, thinking; 'job done.'
Lie Low by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2022 at The Project Arts Centre until September 17.
For more information, visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2022