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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: HOTHOUSE

HOTHOUSE by MALAPROP. Image by Pato Cassinoni


Often, with theatre, the message overwhelms the medium. Indeed, a production is more likely to emphasise its themes and trigger warnings rather than its theatre. All very noble, I’m sure. Only some shows can feel like being trapped on a joyless cruise with someone who never tires of telling you how tired they are. Of the patriarchy, phobias and philistines. Of climate change, generational trauma, and the extinction of countless species of birds. The experience the theatrical equivalent of ‘are we there yet?’, as in ‘are we done yet?’ With a muttered prayer of gratitude when it’s all over. But not MALAPROP. True, they’re not averse to crawling up their own ideological back passage and getting lost there. But they never forget they are, first and foremost, making theatre. And that a cartload of humour can make even the most unpalatable of medicines all the easier to swallow. Evident in their latest offering, HOTHOUSE. A production of such unbridled brilliance it’s practically flawless.

On a cruise from hell cruising through hell, HOTHOUSE explores climate change, generational trauma, and the extinction of countless species of birds. Peter Corboy’s divinely homicidal Captain introducing a wide range of entertainments and back stories for his passenger’s pleasure. Vegas floor shows, choking whale song, dancing deck chairs, each lunacy outdoing the last. Meanwhile, the bad ship Crystal Prophesy sails towards the Arctic circle to see the ice that isn’t there anymore. Running parallel is a generational tale of family trauma stretching from the 60’s into the future. A father who terrorises his child. The child, now a mother, exonerating her own brutally by claiming it’s less than she endured. Her abused, hard drinking daughter facing the demands of love, and death. Both threaded tales asking the same questions: are we doomed to repeat our mistakes or is there hope for change before it's too late? Because, like it or not, this ship is sinking. In the face of inevitable climate crisis, do we dare to dream or get ready to die? To eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow is today?

Touching, tender, hilarious, a towering script by Carys D. Coburn with MALAPROP, bursts with inventiveness and insight. Conversational, observational, inspirational, HOTHOUSE interprets the present, analyses the past, and dreams of a possible future. Language, steeped in deceptive simplicity, yields untold riches. Claire O’Reilly’s superlative direction bringing it all to life. Enriched by Molly O’Cathain’s sun scorched, minimalist set and wacky costumes, superbly illuminated by John Gunning’s lights. The storm scene just one example of O’Reilly’s compositional and imaginative brilliance. Yet if these provide the fire, Peter Corboy, Thommas Kane Byrne, Bláithín Mac Gabhann, Maeve O’Mahony, and Ebby O’Toole Acheampong supply the flames with five flawless performances. True, they’re unlikely to secure a residency in Caesar’s Palace anytime soon, but each ensures there is not an ounce of detail wasted. Not a moment uninvested. Not a momentary lapse of concetration as joke follows joke, song follows song, scene follows scene. Each smarter and funnier than the last, even as their subtext proves deathly serious.

A questioning tale theatrically told, HOTHOUSE trades in text and images asking who we are, how we got here, and where we might go? Whose compelling images come hard and fast, demanding to be viewed again and again, guaranteed to reward each time. You might not buy the ending. You might not be bothered by climate change. You might not, God forbid, be bothered with theatre. But you will be seriously bothered if you miss this jaw dropping production. One of the funniest, sexiest, most thought provoking shows of the festival. HOTHOUSE. A technical and theatrical masterpiece. Like climate change, time is running out. Make sure you don't miss out on this awe inspiring production.

HOTHOUSE by Carys D. Coburn with MALAPROP, runs at Project Arts Centre until Sept 16 as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2023.


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