Writer: Geoff Power
Director: Bairbre Ni Chaoimh
Reviewer: Monica Insinga
Geoff Power’s new play, Retreat, on the pitfalls of mental illness, opened this week at the New Theatre. While the press release describes it as “challenging and revealing”, the play shows mostly potential in its treatment of such a strong subject. The question at the centre of the drama (“When the darkness falls, is it better to carry on or to retreat?”) is quite clear; however, the execution of its answer falls quite short.
At the centre of this one-act there is a family drama linked to a historical house, with a practical and symbolic name, Retreat, originally used as a refuge for Irish soldiers, where they could rest and get better, until ready to fight again. So, while Retreat was once a place of health, over two centuries later, at the present time, it comes to represent the opposite. The play starts after everyone connected to the place has moved away or died, and the only one left, Maura (Charlotte Bradley), “the forgotten sister, the maiden aunt”, is forced to leave the only house that still reminds her of the mother she has taken care of all her life. And right from the start we can see the symptoms of her eventual downfall.
Maura’s tragedy is witnessed as well as shared by her nephew, Jason (Andy Kellegher), the only family member who seem to care enough to try and help Maura out of the way that leads to the tragic finale; perhaps this is due to the fact that these issues run in the family (as mentioned a number of times in the play), and he realises that if he doesn’t do anything to change this, he might be next in line. Both characters are unfocused in life and share the feeling of having lost the people and the things they care about. However, while there are sparks of emotional connection between the two of them, mostly in the middle section of the show, Bradley and Kellegher do not show great chemistry on stage.
Staged confusingly between naturalism and symbolism, with a poor setting, both writing and direction are quite irregular and sketchy at times, with a few good moments, especially thanks to Bradley’s experienced performance. However, her inspired interpretation of Maura is not enough to save this uneven production. An average show, that tries to raise important questions with uncohesive execution.
Photo courtest of The New Theatre. Runs until Saturday, 8th March 2014