Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Life of Stuff

Published in The Irish World newspaper on 15/052013

The Life of Stuff won Best New Play on its debut at the Donmar Warehouse in 1993. It has been revived recently by director Paul Robinson in Battersea’s Theatre503.

The intimate setting of The Latchmere’s Theatre503 leaves no prisoners in terms of the measure of a good performance. With it’s limited seating and basement style layout you are close enough to the stage to be almost part of all that is happening, which is great for any avid theatre goer who wants to feel the full throttle of a good play but daunting and nerve wracking, I imagine, for any actor playing a part.

The layout of this snug theatre therefore allows an audience member to quite quickly gauge whether the performances are in any way convincing and so, in my opinion, it takes real talent and a great script to make it a success.


In the case of The Life of Stuff, this tricky task was accomplished incredibly well as once the stage first lit up we were immediately transported back to a 90’s Edinburgh nightclub in which leopard print surroundings, tacky strobe lighting, glitter and ghetto blasters reigned supreme.
Simon Donald’s play doesn’t waste any time in getting to the true grit of this story, as within the first 10 minutes we were presented with acid driven delinquents raving furiously on podiums to club music, a vomiting patron who has remained on the dance floor from the night before, and a threatening character alluding to the mayhem that will ensue through his conversation with his real life boa constrictor.

It was all this and more that made the audience aware that they had indeed come to a hard hitting play set in Edinburgh’s drug-fuelled 90’s underbelly and that there would be no mention of bag pipes, castles, or any of the splendour for which the city is often known.

We are briskly introduced to an array of hopeless lost souls, Willie Dobie, played by Gregory Finnegan, an actor with Irish roots, played the nightclub owner who, at first, seems to run the whole show.

Holly and Evelyn - two young girls whose love for drugs and partying have led them to work for Dobie, played by Paula Masterson and Pamela Dwyer

Leonard (Rhys Owen) a mentally unhinged DJ who suffers from a severe case of nervous eczema, and Arboghast (Cameron Jack) a foreboding gangster-type who keeps them all on their feet with his aggressive approach to communication. All of whom are brought together through their mutual lack of ambition and love for hard drugs.


As the play continues we get to know the characters and understand why they have ended up in such a hopeless situation. We begin to almost feel sorry for them as we see that their relationships are heavily punctuated by deceit and insecurity.


The play takes many twists and turns, most of which are backed by clubbing tunes which help to lighten the mood as the main body of the story is a quite dark and tragic one.


The play does offer some intelligent humour which can be enjoyed on various levels. However this whirlwind of hard drugs and even harder characters is not for the faint hearted as nudity, live snakes, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and vomiting are characters in themselves. Having said that, its setting leaves it no choice but to show that era for what it was and the near to flawless performances from each actor made this play unforgettable for a variety of reasons- most of which were positive.





Wednesday, 8 May 2013

You know you’re living in London when…

Over the past two years I have noticed some significant differences in my life since moving to the big city and experiencing all its everyday eccentricities.

You travel to work under the armpit of a stranger.

This is London’s most common mode of transport. Many mornings you may be forced to nuzzle uncomfortably under Joe Bloggs armpit as you rattle through the city’s tube tunnels. You can only hope whichever individual’s personal space you are sharing is that of one who looks after themselves and holds personal hygiene as a basic human requirement.


You abide by escalator etiquette at all times or willingly succumb to abuse.

I found this out the hard way.

There are no flashing signs of warning about this unwritten rule but breaking it can often result in torrents of aggression and chaos. It seemed to all travelling on an escalator up from London’s tube one day, that a lady was well within her rights to scream profanities into my ear, as I had made the immortal mistake of travelling on the left side.

This mistake can not only cost you and your ear drums dearly but it seems you could even perhaps be responsible for slowing down London itself. By standing on the incorrect side you are stopping the free flow path on the escalator, therefore halving the amount of people getting to where they want to go, therefore causing a massive dent in the productivity of a days work in London for all those people whose commute you added an extra 2minutes. Do you want that? Take it from me and my throbbing ear drum…the answer is no.


You relish all things artisan.

The word artisan is one which is battered around quite often in London. “Artisan cupcakes, artisan clothing, artisan dogs”. Eg. “Oh my god I found thee most amazing Artisan bistrot just off Brick Lane the other day”. A lot of people in London don’t seem to fully understand or know what artisan means but it conjures all sorts of excitement and immediately creates an air of superiority. Everywhere you go something will be advertised as artisan and the rule usually is that you must never question how or why it deserved such a specific title but rather immediately rush and buy, wear, or pet it affectionately.


You feel the need to grow a beard.

“The London Look”- not just a Rimmel catchphrase but a genuine state of being. There is a London look in fact and it in no way resembles that of Kate Moss. The London look can usually be spotted around East London near Brick Lane and Shoreditch, where the trendier of city folk tend to dwell. This look predominantly involves vintage clothing, meaning anything your granny or grandfather now use to line the dog basket. An over-sized moth-eaten woolly jumper, a scarf that trails two miles behind you, a pair of Deirdre Barlow inspired thick-lensed glasses, and a t-shirt that says something endearingly silly or ironic. However every great look needs accessories and the ones that usually accompany it are a long scruffy beard and an old well-used bicycle. If you manage to pull all the above off you are officially cool in London. However trying this at home in Ireland may lead people to assume that you are some sort of fisherman who has been forced to borrow his granny’s old High Nelly after receiving his quota of penalty points.


There is a lack of normal sandwiches.

Gone are the days of ham, cheese or tuna fillings in your sandwich of choice, you are much more likely to find yourself munching on something with humus, halloumi or grilled goats cheese nestled between two artisan slices. In fact finding what might be classed as a “normal” sandwich in London can prove to be far beyond difficult and asking for it conjures feeling of sympathy in the vendor. Avoid awkward situations, order that exotic sandwich and try your best to enjoy it.