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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Theatre Festival 2023: In Two Minds

Karen McCartney and Pom Boyd in In Two Minds. Image uncredited


There are those who would like to transform Dublin into a Scandinavian outpost. On the evidence of Alyson Cummins’s set for Joanne Ryan’s In Two Minds, it wouldn’t suit us. Cummins’s apartment bedroom, all Swedish austerity and IKEA compactness, awash in Kevin Smith’s aurora borealis of lights, is warm but clinical. Echoed in Rob Moloney’s ECM styled score, whose moody and broody overstatements compete with the action when not trying to substitute for it. The room a space in which Pom Boyd’s Dubliner Mother clearly doesn’t belong. But it’s a safe space, one suspects, purposely created by her Daughter, Karen McCartney, in reaction to Mom’s wild, unpredictable personality. What people once called being a character. What's more often known today as Bipolar Disorder.

Karen McCartney and Pom Boyd in In Two Minds. Image uncredited

Not that Ryan addresses the condition in any serious way. A Mother coming to stay with her Daughter while her house is being renovated sees low-flying antics test their relationship via trudgingly cinematic scenes that establish the child as the parent and the parent as a child. McCartney’s Daughter having her work cut out for being barely a cipher. The straight role in the odd couple comedy act. The improbability of the shared bed scene enough to challenge any actor who knows they’re little more than a supporting device. But McCartney responds beautifully, excavating moments that offset Boyd’s relentless energy with understatement. Boyd alternating from exuberant highs like a three day coke bender, to plummeting depressive depths equal to the mother of all hangovers. The latter played out of sight behind a curtained veil, like an embarrassment. Or a Freudian slip. Boyd brilliant when delivering scathing insults like they were matters of fact. Doing more by doing less during the “let’s talk about it” ending which looks tagged on and unbelievably twee, facilitating the uplifting Disney finale. The perfect accompaniment to the singalong a golden oldie, dance around the bedroom cliche from earlier. Director Sarah Jane Scaife's attention to performances yielding huge dividends, dealing in a restraint that borders on ordinariness. Even as humour only half lands half of the time. Pathos less than that.

Pom Boyd in In Two Minds. Image uncredited

Those who have lived with people suffering Bipolar Disorder, especially when undiagnosed and untreated, will tell you it’s not just a frustrating inconvenience. It can be heartbreakingly devastating. The demands of care, the sacrifices asked, can put promising lives on hold, and sometimes destroy them. The illness exacting cruel payment not just from the sufferer, but the carer. Which you little more than glimpse here, and then not convincingly. Sanitised and prettified, In Two Minds never digs beyond skin deep, and sometimes not even that far. Boyd’s illuminating performance disclosing far more about the normalised realities of mental health than Ryan’s Hallmark Channel script. Whose unspoken leaves too much unsaid. What's said leaving too much unspoken. Its truth glimpsed in two compelling performances.

In Two Minds by Joanne Ryan, presented by Fishamble: The New Play Company, run at Draíocht, Blanchardstown as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2023 until October 14.


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