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

The View by Philip Rademeyer, The Teacher’s Club, Dublin, May 13th, 2013

The View from inside: Philip Rademeyer’s The View

Originally published by Entertainment.ie, Wednesday 15th May, 2013. To read the original, please click here. 

Written by: Philip Rademeyer
Directed by: Philip Rademeyer
Cast: Ella Gabriel, Roelof Storm

Part of Dublin’s 10th Annual Gay Theatre Festival, the European premiere of Philip Rademeyer’s The View, which is largely set in confines of a prison cell, found itself the perfect venue in the basement of Parnell Square’s Teacher’s Club.

Told from the perspective of a young, imprisoned, gay man, who sits, center stage, watching a video of messages from those he has known in his life outside the prison walls, the play centers around the young man and yet features many perspectives from a multitude of characters, played with great energy from actress Ella Gabriel. The Cape Town actress plays everyone from the prison’s gatekeeper, to his mother, to a peeping neighbor. Her greatest triumph however, is as a cynical news reporter reporting on the man’s trial and imprisonment; downstage center and stood up on a chair, she immediately brings to mind Tilda Swinton; particularly the Tilda Swinton that we see in Michael Clayton.

The story of the young man’s imprisonment and the nature of his relationship with those characters played by Gabriel, the story is told with great originality and creativity. After playing each part, Gabriel hangs an item of clothing or an accessory from each character, which over the course of the play build up to create a vivid image of the young man’s past of his relationship to the characters played by Gabriel.

What pulls the play back however, is its forays into “In- yer- face” theatre; that now much dated trend from the 1990s that sought to teach us that shouting as loud as one possibly can, howling profanities from across the stage and uttering abstract, idiosyncratic language is theatre at its most vital. It isn’t. The effect, unfortunately, that this has on The View is a play that struggles to keep the dynamics fresh and exciting for the audience and, instead, the play resorts to the cheap hallmarks of “In- yer- face” theatre as a way of keeping the structure of the play interesting and engaging for the audience. The play also struggles, at times with its own limitations and it doesn’t stretch out the possibilities as much as it possibly could; there is, for example, little humor in the play, which if there was more, would play off quite colorfully against the monologue from the imprisoned young man.

The play also isn’t served well by an ending that is as portentous as it is labored; the young man rising out of his chair and assuming a Christ-like pose. The physical dynamics of the central character are not fully explored: at times, he is too still and, again, the limitations of sitting on the chair do more to hinder the production rather than anything else.

Patchy, though boasting a brilliant performance from actress Ella Gabriel and featuring creative and well thought-out lighting, The View, unfortunately, doesn’t look far enough into it’s own possibilities.

The View runs in The Teacher’s Club until the 18th may at 9.30pm. Matinee: 18th May at 4.30pm. Tickets: €10 – €15. For more information go to: www.gaytheatre.ie

For the full International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival programme click here.