You're Still Here
Murmuration's You're Still Here. Image by Ellius Grace.
There's something almost Chekhovian about Murmuration‘s latest production You're Still Here, in which three siblings face an unknown future and wonder what to do with the family home. Indeed, on Friday it enjoyed an unintentional, impeccably timed gunshot moment courtesy of a falling rail a few minutes from the end. Yet compared to their superlative Summertime and Will I See You There, You're Still Here proves to be the creative runt of the Murmuration litter. Elevated into something hugely engaging by three excellent performance. Which, if it would be unfair to say they forgive a multitude of sins exactly, they certainly wipe the slate clean of one or two.
Through their signature use of headphones both text and subtext, the thought and said, sounds and words all combine to craft an intertextual richness resembling a profound psychological experience. Like hearing several voices inside your head all at once. Offering competing narratives wherein the devil is not in the details. Instead, the daily details of procrasta-painter Sam and nervous Niamh are of the banal, everyday type. Popcorn, watching First Dates on TV again, compulsively painting walls and wondering why she's painting walls: a carousel of same old conversations cocoon them in their struggle to say and not say what's really on their minds. Until prodigal brother Jack returns. Not so much upending their world as bringing into the open the devilish details too long left unspoken. Negotiated for the first time without self-censorship. All three siblings crafting a hurried, untidy resolution despite never convincingly establishing what the crisis was. Rushing to a quick and easy end that's bittersweet and a little hard to completely buy into.
If director John King elicits excellent performances from Hazel Clifford (Sam), Finbarr Doyle (Jack), and Eavan Gaffney (Niamh), the use of space leaves something to be desired. Seated for the round yet often played into the corner, or completely off stage, awkward viewing angles can result in strained necks, partial views or complete masking for long periods depending where you sit. Leaving only Jennifer O'Malleys composition and sound design in your ear, along with the text, which struggle without the immediacy of the cast. Sounding not so much like a radio play as a tranquility recording to help you sleep. A low drone, lapping waves, often inaudible words sounding like overlapping breaths can often cause eyelids to droop in the absence of anything to look up at. Neither text, light, sound, nor silence being enough to sustain engagement without Clifford, Doyle and Gaffney pulling you in and making you co-conspirators with their fleeting immediacy and friendly eye contact.
With You're Still Here, Murmuration again push at boundaries. If it doesn't match up to their previous experiments, it's still far braver than a lot of other work out there. And those times when it all comes together, You're Still Here makes for a hugely intriguing experience, whetting the appetite for what's to come. For Murmuration clearly have something going on. Rarely has a story that does so little and does it slowly had moments so irresistibly appealing and seductive.
You're Still Here, written by Finbarr Doyle and John King with the company, with concept development and additional text by James Elliott, presented by Murmuration, runs at Dublin Castle as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2021 until September 26.