• Chris O'Rourke

The Veiled Ones


Kévin Coquelard in The Veiled Ones. Image Luca Truffarelli

***

Black silk sheets shimmer in the darkness, rising and falling like Macbeth's witches. Meanwhile live music played by Bryan O'Connell and Lioba Petrie drips with ominous foreboding. In The Veiled Ones, a witches brew concocted by Junk Ensemble, Roald Dahl's The Witches forms a loose jumping off point for a series of meditations on witches, transformations, grandparents and grandchildren, and taking care of the earth. Yet being heavier on mood than magic, and light on fun and charm, The Veiled Ones falls short of its original inspiration.


If Valerie Reid's scenography works hard to craft some magic, and often succeeds, its reverse round, with the audience sitting in the middle, finds sight lines constantly compromised. Sarah Jane Shiels lighting tries compensate, but it sometimes seems unsure as to what show its lighting. Aimed at all ages The Veiled Ones steps uneasily on how best to integrate its diverse aged audience. More Grimm than Dahl at times, a knife sharpening Finola Cronin as a self-confessed witch confuses as much as establishes context. Twins Joya Hobson and Priya Hobson doing a terrific job, while alluding to Megan and Jessica Kennedy's own relationship, enter less as grandchildren so much as the sisters from The Shining hauntingly singing Three Blind Mice. A prolonged gag on bodily functions implemented by two heartless directors sees potty humour wedged in almost like an afterthought to keep the kiddies happy.

Rocio Dominguez and Miguel do Vale in The Veiled Ones. Image Luca Truffarelli


Where the real magic lies is in a constantly transforming Kévin Coquelard. Not witches magic, but the magic of an artist at the height of their game, becoming chicken or mouse, cramming himself into cages, manipulating jumpers and make-up to shift perspectives on what is and what's possible. Throughout The Veiled Ones flowing, acrobatic choreography proves its strongest suite, especially a superb push and pull trio featuring Coquelard along with Miguel do Vale and Rocio Dominguez. Yet it is a magnetic Coquelard showing magnificent range who keeps everything coalesced throughout.

Joya Hobson, Priya Hobson and Finola Croin in The Veiled Ones. Image Luca Truffarelli

Choreographically strong, The Veiled Ones is never quite the equal of some of its individual parts. Funny, it’s never quite funny enough; charming, it’s never quite charming enough; magical, it’s never quite magical enough, with much of its lightness cancelled out by Die Hexen's often heavy handed, brooding score. Yet there are many memorable moments, including a sensitively executed finale with Cronin and Coquelard, along with do Vale and Dominguez, bringing some captivating light and joy momentarily into the dark.


The Veiled Ones by Junk Ensemble runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2021 at The Samuel Beckett Theatre till September 13.


It will then be appearing in October at Baboró International Arts Festival For Children.


For more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2021.


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