Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

Words will get written here and some videoblogs will appear. You don't have to look but it would be nice if you did.

A Miracle April 9, 2009

I took my mother to go see this play because not only does she think Russell Tovey is “sweet and adorable” but to show her around the Royal Court and give her a taste of what I want to actually do. She’d never been to that theatre or in fact to that part of London; then again why would anyone who doesn’t have a few tonne in their pocket to burn. The place is littered with boutiques and big name brands that you can only afford to say rather than indulge in.

I’d already seen the set for “A Miracle” because a friend had their reading of their play there the week before. You walked into the Jerwood Upstairs to be confronted with seats lining all four walls and the ground covered in soil and grass as if you’ve just stepped out into the park. There was a roundabout, a single bed, a kitchen sink, oven and a table (and also five tonne of soil scattered around the place in bags). The atmosphere was one of anticipation; you didn’t know where the actors were going to surface from. What I enjoyed about taking Mother to see this piece was the different approach to theatre it would show her. My Mother does not scoff at theatre but she’s used to the more traditional proscenium arch format where the village hall will do or musicals (I also am a fan of musicals before anyone thinks I’m scoffing back at her). This piece was to challenge the standard sitting back and watching the drama unfold. One of the first things she said to me was, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the stage before, it’s like I’m a part of the play”. This comment from her pleased me because that’s how every play should be, involving and pushing the boundary of what’s considered safe. We saw the action unfold and felt every movement and nuance of their characters because we had no choice but to. No doubt there were some young girls there to admire the named star Tovey (who giggled in the lead up, but were silenced by his blunt and emotionally charged character) but I was just happy that there were a different crowd in the audience.

The play was a slow burning production about a young girl, Amy, whose mothered a child she cannot connect with and who is more of less brought up by her grandmother, Val. Amy encounters and reconnects with Gary whose been away in the army for two years and has come back to see his father, Rob. Through a series of contained and painful naive moments we see each character’s ripple of effects on each other and the lies that link them together. The play touches on disappointment,the labour of love and the brutal facts of work and survival.

Whilst I enjoyed this piece I walked away feeling a little empty. The performances were cracking. Kate O’Flynn was the socially inept Amy who teased the humour from her uneducated and emotionally redundant character highlighting every up and down she felt along the way. Her interaction with Sorcha Cusack, who played the grandmother, was electric and the two women thrashed the emotion (or Amy’s lack of) into their scenes bringing real naturalistic intentional pauses down to their knees. Gerard Horan, Rob, was brilliantly complex and closed off as the troubled farmer who following the foot-and-mouth outbreaks had encountered personal and financial problems. His scenes with Russell Tovey not only punctuated the rocky father-son relationship they harboured but the similarities the two men had and their nonchalance for not admitting their mistakes.

The characters were electric and the plot steady and intriguing but the way the story was pieced together made me want more. Not necessarily a bad thing but when you’re clapping the actors and you’re stuck in the queue to get out it’s not what you want to be feeling when you’ve still got questions. I wanted more to be teased out of the characters, I wanted to really be run through the mill of all of their actions. There seemed to be no distinct high points where you as a member of the audience think, “woah, what are they going to do, surely… oh no…”. Of course there were consequences for each character’s actions but they seemed to be treated with kit gloves on, no real flinging of words or under the belt punches thrown. I suspect that the undercurrent was to reiterate how life carries on and how each character was fooling themselves and saying the right things at the right time… but it seemed to stop short of making that message strong.

This isn’t meant to come across as overly negative, I thoroughly enjoyed Molly Davies debut and want to see more of her work. What she captured brilliantly is the domesticity each of our lives are reduced to and certain roles that we’re meant to fill and ask no questions about. She also highlights the plight of every person whose suffered from life’s daily disasters and doesn’t follow suit of exposing it to the downtrodden stereotypes. I had a discussion with someone the other day about wanting people to turn off their televisions and take a trip to the theatre. There are cracking emotional dramas that people laze about and watch at home but if they could only rush to the nearest theatre and experience it in real time face to face they would enjoy it more so. Theatre still has the stigmatism of being for the middle classes but I hope that with time and the emergence of new playwrights such as Molly Davies, we can turn that theory on it’s head and dispell it once and for all. I for one have started small by taking my Mother, the bigger battle is my Father…

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