The International Bar, 23 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2
Until March 24th, 6.30 pm
To write one play is a big ask, so to write and produce three simultaneously is quite an undertaking, but that is exactly what writer and director, Luke Corcoran, has done here – for the second time. As the title suggests this is actually the second part of his Purgatory: Anarchic series.
The three plays in question here – Presents, Jobber, and The Book of Karl, are a very mixed bag. Avoiding the temptation to have a common thread running through them, they are all standalone pieces of around 25 minutes in duration.
Presents tells the story of a first date, made all the more unusual by the fact that both parties imaginary childhood friends attend with them. In the case of the female, Clare (played by Amy Gallagher) her ‘friend’ is actually played by a man in drag (Dave T. Kelly in his stage debut) which adds a quirky comedic element to proceedings.
Jobber sees a man encounter his father in a rather embarrassing work situation, forcing them both to confront home truths.
Meanwhile, The Book of Karl sees a downtrodden man forced to face up to the realities of his life, when he is presented with a mysterious book, which knows more about his life than he does.
A quick straw poll of the audience the night I attended showed that there was no one firm standout, with everyone favouring a different one out of the three offerings. Personally, I found Presents the most engaging. The characters were well-formed, and it had some truly hilarious moments, which balanced well with the more serious elements of the story. I could also see this working really well as a short film.
Jobber was probably my least favourite, partly because the setup is rather contrived, although the two actors, Jason Deeney and Padraic McGinley, had a fantastic chemistry, and worked brilliantly together. Once you got past the initial premise, they had some lovely and poignant scenes.
The Book of Karl tackles the difficult issue of abuse through an absurdist style story, and again has some lovely moments in it, and a fantastic performance from Barry O’Brien as the eponymous Karl. He is a great physical actor, and really throws himself into the material. I did feel that there was quite a lot of repetition in this one, however, and at times it was very ‘shouty’, which even in heightened scenes isn’t always necessary.
With a quick turnaround between the plays (there is a brief interval between Jobber and Book of Karl) you barely have time to process one work before it is on to the next one, and it often feels somewhat frantic. This is both good and bad, as all three works touch on sensitive issues at some point, and it is often good to absorb this for a while afterwards. However, this also means you don’t dwell on the subjects, which, given that some of them may be distressing to people, could be beneficial to people’s theatrical experience.
It is tricky to pull off such an ambitious project in a venue such as The International, which has no wings to enter and exit from, and a small stage which doesn’t allow much in the way of props, but Corcoran has made it work here.
Overall it is a wonderful project with some lovely writing in parts. There are some sections in all three that could do with slight tweaking, but the ideas and the core of the pieces are there. He’s done well to assemble such great casts, given that there are eight actors overall, and all were being rehearsed at the same time.
Perhaps tackling two plays next time rather than three might make for a slightly richer experience, as there is a huge amount going on here, but overall, this is worth a look if you want to see some real up and coming talent in action, both behind the scenes and front of house.