Theatre Review: Snake Oil at Theatre Upstairs @Lanigans, Dublin, Tuesday 18th June, 2013

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Wednesday 19th June, 2013. To read the original, please click here.

IN Alan O’Reagan’s Snake Oil, a supposedly chance encounter between Ed (Raymond Keane) and Shell (Ciara O’Callaghan) in an airport lounge sets off a series of events that are admirably unpredictable and full of dramatic possibilities. Add Shell’s flatmate Ciaran (Gerard Adlum) into the mix, a Ph.D student in need of €20,000 to pay off a colleague who is threatening to leak his unique formula for a fast-acting diet pill onto the internet, and you have a play that is brimming with dramatic action.

Although Snake Oil wears its influences very much on its sleeve (at one point, Ciara O’Callaghan’s Shell holds up a copy of Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’ for all to see), Snake Oil’s explicit nod to the crime caper genre makes the play all the more intriguing and, on the whole, the play fulfills genre expectations.

Left to Right: Raymond Keane as Ed and Ciara O’Callaghan as Shell in Alan O’Reagan’s Snake Oil

The three actors are all instantly convincing and believable in their roles, which is the toughest challenge that any actors face in such a production. Ideally, the audience should, by the play’s end, feel every bit as conned by these characters as the characters do themselves. Through tightly scripted lines and tightly acted scenes, Snake Oil shows it cards slowly, revealing its true intentions slowly and subtly, as the best crime drama must do.

An essential ingredient of any Chandler-esque crime caper is misdirection: the audience can never know who is conning whom. Right up to the play’s hilarious dénouement, we are kept guessing as to the true motives and intentions of these three characters. There are playful touches throughout, especially plays on names and places. The back-stories of these characters do, seemingly, match up with the front-stories. There are clues as to the true origins of these characters peppered throughout the production: where they have been and where they might be headed next. For example: Ed – whose flight to Nice is cancelled at the very beginning of the play – quotes at length in French and the lining of his jacket bears the colors of the French flag, which creates a certain curiosity about his origins and about his connections.

Kept in the dark: Crime caper Snake Oil is full of twists and turns

Most impressively, however, Snake Oil packs quite a dramatic punch in less than an hour.

A compact and unique slice of lunchtime theatre, Snake Oil leads its audience into a hall of mirrors, despite its banal, unimaginative and clichéd title. One suspects, however, that this is part of the con.

Star rating: 4 / 5
Review by: Philip Cummins
Venue: Theatre Upstairs

Written by: Alan O’Reagan
Directed by: Gemma Doorly
Cast: Raymond Keane, Ciara O’Callaghan and Gerard Adlum

Snake Oil runs in Theatre Upstairs @ Lanigan’s until 29th June. 1pm performances: Monday 18th – Saturday 22nd, Monday 24th, Wednesday 26th – Saturday 29th. 7pm performances: Thursday 20th – Saturday 22nd and Thursday 27th – Saturday 29th. Tickets: €10 (including light lunch @ 1pm performances) / €8 student concessions.

To book contact: theatreupstairs@gmail.com / 085 772 7375

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