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The Vacuum - Issue 15 - God spacer The Vacuum - Issue 15 - God
The Young Man with the Cream Tarts
by Eugene MacNamee
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This show takes place in the underground passage beneath the Lagan Weir, and the audience is lead through the passage and into various artificial caverns by a central narrator character. To say that the narrator gives the story is a bit misleading, since the narrator who poeticizes wild and atmospheric as he leads the audience from one scene to the next, and it is in these scenes that the developing narrative is exposed. Eventually all the characters and the audience are gathered together in the largest of the underground chambers, and the story comes to a head.
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Fair-play to whoever is the production manager behind Sneaky Productions because setting this play in the tunnel beneath the Lagan Weir was a master-stroke. Possibly the play was developed with the setting in mind, since the action of the play is all Edgar Allen Poe high Gothic stinky cheese, and works really well in the high-fantastical dark damp corners of the tunnel. Apart from what is borrowed in terms of atmosphere the device of having someone lead you around from place to place, in at one end, out at the other, turning here and there, has a slightly disorienting effect which again works really well with the subject matter. Leaving aside the tale being told, the effect of being lead around by a chorus figure who's also part of the action to new characters and spaces gives the whole thing a kind of filmic quality of rapid scene shift, long shots and close-ups (depending on the size of the chamber you're in or how close to the character who's speaking) much more complete lighting changes than standard stage set-ups allow for, and the fact that actors can just speak rather than stage-speak, creating that paradoxical cinematic intimacy.
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It's just as well that the production ideas, values and set-ups are terrific because the actual play can use all the help it can get. The central poet-voyeur character finds himself drawn into a dark underworld of death, decadence and tunnels. His lyrical self-reflective progress as he gradually uncovers what is going on is great; all fancy-pants maunderings about life, pain, gain, and God knows what, but good. Just the kindof weird stuff you want when you're in semi-darkness under the Lagan. But when he reaches the various points where he has to interact with the other characters and this high-falutin' language is toned down into more or less ordinary stuff that tells us what's supposed to be an extraordinary tale, everything goes to hell in a hand-basket. The tale is Poe-lite and the characters perfectly adequate, but the dialogue is Poe-shite, complete with corny jokes and clumpy links. The actors do a great job to keep this porridge stirred, and it's really good to see good ensemble work from a new generation of actors in the city. But even they can't entirely salvage the mixture from a gradual descent into mediocrity. What should be the climax to the show, when we are all gathered to witness the resolution to the story, turns out to be the lowest point; static, contrived, dreary. I can't even remember what happened in the end. Somebody dies, possibly, or lives. It ends.
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So, all in all a really good show with the blemish that some of the writing needed to be put through another turn in the editing mill before being released into the world. But that's a minor enough point and I look forward to their next adventure, on the stair-well inside the Albert Clock, perhaps.
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