Theatre Review | The New Irish Playbook/Joe O’Neill

The New Irish Playbook/Joe O’Neill, written and directed by Joe O’Neill is a series of short plays that narrate the trials and challenges of everyday life, tinged with strokes of lightness and humour.

O’Neill has been writing for just a few years, since his first play Goodbye to Marie appeared in 2015 at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght. These five shorts were initially performed as stand-alone pieces on separate occasions and O’Neill then made the decision to knit them all together, ‘I felt each of the pieces were very different from each other, and could appear to a wide variety of people’, he explains.

Short performances like these need to entice the viewer quickly and leave them wanting more. They should be sharp and clever; as they have nothing to hide behind. While it is important for Irish artists be supported and to have the chance to express themselves and to create new work,  sometimes art has to go through some growing pains to get to where it needs to be.

It was evident that O’Neill is still cutting his teeth, as the flow of these performances needs some polishing, never really reaching a point of tension or anticipation. Theatre needs to leave us asking, ‘What else is there?’, the characters should be people we would like to know more about – we need to care about them –  whether we hate or adore them, they should move us in some way. Lesley Moore did deliver a strong performance; she shifts from a young woman fretting over an unwanted pregnancy to a sassy pal at a friend’s wedding, giving her pathetic male friend a sharp dose of reality. She has a strong stage presence and moved well from one role to the other.

To give them some credit, Little Shadow Theatre company is only in its infancy, it was founded in order to give up and coming writers the chance to have their plays produced. They have work to do, but it will be interesting to see how the next few productions take shape. Up next, the troupe will travel to London with The New Irish Playbook/Joe O’Neill to stage this production in the Etcetera Theatre in Camden on the 5th and 6th of January. There is clearly great momentum behind the play and a desire to go further than just a small theatre space on Parnell Street, in Dublin. The tension is in there somewhere. Let’s give them a few more years.


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