Where Sat The Lovers
Where Sat The Lovers by Dylan Coburn Gray and MALAPROP. Image Ste Murray
That's the thing with MALAPROP. Each new production feels like a rigged, theatrical poker game you're almost sure you'll win if you sit at their table. Yet given their sheer diversity of styles, approaches and themes you can never be certain how big the winnings. What keeps people at the table is not the almost assured guarantee of a theatrical pay day, it's the prospect of a big theatrical pay day. Like their latest production Where Sat The Lovers, written by Dylan Coburn Gray and MALAPROP. A little play with big ideas that deals a theatrical straight flush. With direction, writing, staging, casting, and production ensuring Where Sat The Lovers hits the jackpot in a big way.
Re-emphasising how we can never see, hear or know everything, Claire O'Reilly's superb direction in the round exploits this idea yet makes sure we see, hear and know more than enough. Loaded with intellectual and cultural curios, Where Sat The Lovers is all about perspective, communication, family, love, and mental health. Just ask Isaac Newton, a superlative Wren Dennehy, who MC's the whole affair with the flair and flamboyance of a diva at a Drag Brunch, setting up three interconnected acts whose simple narrative belies a range of depth and complexities. Where a traumatised composer living with her worried sister tries a one night hook-up in which everyone gets more than they bargained for. Confrontations. Conspiracy theories. The police calling to the door. Possible proof of God's existence. Apples and clothes horses dropping from the sky.
If a paranoid is a person with all the facts, there's plenty of both floating about in Molly O’Cathain's superb meta-theatrical, one bedroom flat in Belfast, brilliantly lit by John Gunning. Where two sisters negotiate living together under challenging circumstances. Including unresolved mental health issues, codes used in musical compositions, suggestions of suicide and some tricky sleeping arrangements. Yet if these supply the basic ingredients, Where Sat The Lovers is a dish loaded with huge and various flavours. Asking big questions and little questions across a broad spectrum, ranging from nature and nurture to Auschwitz and the RUC, its biggest achievement lies in framing mental health and relationships in a fresh and invigorating light. Courtesy of three outstanding performances. Fresh from her terrific turn in Tonic, Juliette Crosbie as the hook-up with a secret proves deeply affecting, making convincing the girl who hangs in there when everything, including her date, are telling her to bail. Her date a wildly brilliant Bláithín Macgabhann, cementing her reputation as one of the brightest actors of her generation with a searingly detailed performance of someone whose mind works differently to those around her, who is often viewed as a problem more than a personality. Particularly by her maternal sister, a terrific Maeve O’Mahony, scared that Macgabhann might succumb to the history of family violence and unleash a devastation just waiting to repeat itself.
Like Michael's Frayn's Copenhagen, Where Sat The Lovers is not afraid of intellectual and cultural heft, and richly rewards even minimum investment. Without ever forgetting that when the intellectual dust settles, it's all about people. You don't have to understand it all to understand it, or for it to challenge your understanding around certain assumptions, particularly around mental health. You just need to sit back and allow Wren's magnificent MC to guide you, allowing you to follow wherever you will. To see what lands, what stirs, and what you tuck away to think about later. Steered by three exquisite performances from Crosbie, Macgabhann and O’Mahony. Superbly directed by O'Reilly. A show with brains that's an absolute no brainer, Where Sat The Lovers is not to be missed. Can we get a cashier over here please? There's some serious winnings at MALAPROP'S table tonight.
Where Sat The Lovers, written by Dylan Coburn Gray and MALAPROP, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2021 at Project Arts Centre until September 25.