Reboot Live 2020: Episode One
Reboot Live 2020: Episode One. Image uncredited
Juliet Loved Her Romeo/The Greatest Story Ever Cast/This Is How Term Ends
There are venues you never forget. The International Bar is one such venue. Comedians might like to claim it as theirs, but theatre makers can regale you with tales from long before the advent of stand up. With so many legendary venues now gone - City Arts Centre, Andrew's Lane, Theatre Upstairs, add your own - The International Bar's ability to stand the test of time without ever changing is remarkable. Its blacked out windows and DIY ethos offered a home to many of the greats and forgotten of Irish theatre who got their first start there. So it's perhaps no surprise that as Irish theatre tentatively returns to regular live performances, The International Bar is again welcoming fresh starts with "Reboot Live 2020," which serves up a host of little reckonings in this still great room.
Offering six individual episodes from now till September 13, each featuring three short plays, "Reboot Live 2020" was designed specifically to respond to Covid by embracing social distancing for audience and actors. Playing to an audience of ten and adhering to strict guidelines (contact tracing, temperature taking, masks, social distancing) Reboot Live: Episode One kicked off on a wet and windy Tuesday with Juliet Loved Her Romeo, offering a playful riff on what might have happened had Romeo and Juliet lived. Written and directed by Peter Reid, if love is a battlefield, a middle aged Romeo is suffering from severe PTSD, played with sensitive understatement by Paul Kealyn. Romeo might be having a mid-life crisis, but Juliet, a vibrant and vivacious Noni Stapleton, looks like she's hitting her sexual peek. On the night of their thirtieth wedding anniversary, the lure of the past pulls at them both as they begin to realise that getting together was the easy part. Staying together might prove to be an entirely different story.
Paul Kealyn in Juliet loved her Romeo by Peter Reid. Image by Cate Reid.
Honouring Shakespeare with some healthy irreverence, Reid shows hints of the vagabond troubadour in his tightly scripted tale. With a sparing economy that borders on the beggarly, alongside a love for a good story, Reid conveys surprising depth with little to play with, leaving an opportunity for humour under exploited in favour of dramatic depth. If the ending could use a little more meat, Juliet Loved Her Romeo proves remarkably robust, succeeding well beyond its gimmicked device, courtesy of two terrific performances and some searingly smart insights delivered with Shakespearian finesse.
Edel Murphy (Mary) and Jennifer Laverty (BB) in The Greatest Story Ever Cast by Paul Elliot and Edel Murphy. Image by Cate Reid.
In Paul Elliot and Edel Murphy's The Greatest Story Ever Cast heavenly angels audition for a movie about the Messiah, whose tale is told via a mildly salacious screenplay written by a decidedly kinky angel Gabriel. Following the format of an audition, Edel Murphy turns in a strong performance as Mary, an aspirational wannabe trying out for the role of Messiah. Meanwhile BB, the casting agent from hell, a superb Jennifer Laverty, thinks Mary would be better suited to playing a whore. Less a short scene so much as an extended sketch, the one trick device doesn't quite have the durational strength to sustain itself. Even so, it shows a lot of promise, courtesy of some clever lines and two strong and committed performances.
Alison Oliver in This Is How Term Ends by Gavin Kostick. Image Cate Reid.
Rounding out Episode One, This Is How Term Ends finds recently graduated Marta, a soon to be midwife with a passion for jogging, longing for the banks of the Lee. And longing for him. You know, the cyclist who might be the one. He's on the verge of graduating too, and over a meeting at Grand Canal Dock they'll both confess their hopes and feelings, looking to fashion a future. Written by Gavin Kostick, Kostick brings his considerable skills to bear on this short form piece which overflows with texture and depth. It might be a small offering, but it's a gourmet treat, loaded with taste and flavour. And with a delicious twist to boot. If the narrative commentary can feel unnecessary and leading in places, its bright buttoned cast play well with the occasional forced moment. Ben Waddell turns in a terrific performance as the boy who wants the girl and a future. But the night belongs to Alison Oliver. Utterly irresistible, Oliver is astonishing as the Cork girl dreaming her future, seducing the audience into being her willing, personal confidants. No doubt top class direction by Bryan Burroughs had something to do with it all, but Waddell shows some serious talent, and Oliver crackles with natural presence in a wonderfully mesmerising performance.
"Reboot Live 2020" is a gloriously insane endeavour. Sure, it can feel like a preview at times, and the forced separation onstage leaves some looking like they're acting against the grain. Yet there's something wonderfully audacious about it all. Something enchantingly irresistible about it all. Which has everything to do with that live, immediate experience, right here, happening now, unfolding before you onstage under less than ideal circumstances. Looking to defy the odds. Brought to life by a committed cast, supported by some first rate creatives and crew. It might prove to be a pyrrhic victory, but it is the kind of victory that wins hearts and minds and lives on in the memory. Dusted with romance and magic, and just a smear of greasepaint for good luck, Reboot Live 2020: Episode One reminds you why you fell in love with theatre in the first place. Go see it. Or, at the very least, donate and support it.
"Reboot Live 2020" runs at The International Bar on various dates till September 13.
Reboot Live: Episode One runs August 27 and 29, and will be live streamed on August 27.
For more information, visit Reboot Live 2020.