EFR - Reviews of End of the Line

End of the Line

Fri 5th – Sat 13th August 2011

reviews

Harriet Baker

at 10:33 on 14th Aug 2011

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The audience is seated before a queue of people across the stage, each person shifting their feet, shuffling and muttering. It is a dole queue in present-day Ireland, from which an individual steps forward and tells their story; a framing device for a set of narratives. The stories that unwind recount failed business ventures, drug addiction and redundancy from high paid jobs. Everybody feels like a failure, justifies their need and not their desire to be part of the queue, and asserts their power or their hopes for the future. Nobody feels they ought to be there, yet, as Dodger (played by Rory Dignam) addresses the audience at the beginning, ‘We’re all alike here.’

The main strength of this play lies in the depth of characterization; each person stepping out of the dole queue has a story to tell. John is confronted by his wife, Yvonne, after she discovers he has hidden his redundancy from her for months. As her world seems to crumble about her, John admits to his sense of failure, his embarrassment at losing his job and having to live on benefits. Shame is one emotional factor of going on the dole, felt by failed professionals and sex workers alike. Another poignant story sees Marie explain her son’s death through addiction, and her sense of failure as a mother. She asks, ‘Who do I blame? I blame myself, I blame the dealers, I blame the police.’ It becomes apparent that she blames not just herself but society; both individuals and the state have failed her family, and with bitterness and regret she takes her place again in the line. These episodes are skillfully done; Lynn Rafferty is superb as the grieving Marie and as John’s wife, whilst Seamus Griffin excels across a number of roles; embarrassed husband, homeless drunk, abusive husband and professional cameraman.

Whilst this production is well-written, and aspects of characterization are excellent, its amateurish direction prevents it from really taking off. The narratives, whilst good individually, do not work alongside each other. Character changes are clumsy, consisting of costume changes from a rail at the back of the stage. Whilst the sense of the queue is achieved well, it is overdone, as the actors trudge in a circle on stage to a loud voiceover that is unnecessary.

Whilst the amateurish direction of this piece of theatre dulls the overall effect, individual stories shine out from the rest and linger. This is a piece of interesting and moving theatre.

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Imogen Sarre

at 12:50 on 14th Aug 2011

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Giving a star rating to this production feels decidedly tricky. It was consistently fine throughout, neither quite meriting a two star ‘average’ nor a three star ‘good’. The difficulty lies in the fact that there weren’t any substantially great or terrible moments that could pull it up or down.

Short sketches about a variety of individuals affected by the Irish recession were devised by the participants involved in each specific scene. Although the disparate stories obviously had a strong topic based link and the cast repeatedly formed a queue for the dole between scenes to overtly remind audiences of this overarching focus, this quite simplistic technique did not hide the fact that the sequences were haphazardly arranged and no greater depth or complexity could be found in the play as a whole. There was no profundity and no real conclusion, both of which could have been excused if the individual scenes had been more emotionally engaging. Considering I was watching scenes unravel about the destitute, depressed and downtrodden, it was quite astonishing that my heartstrings were not tugged once. There was a wide-ranging variety of stories and characters, but the latter were firmly stereotyped, augmented by over-acting and a poor grasp of nuance. There were brief redeeming moments in each actor’s starring moments where I got a glimpse of quality, but each occasion was inevitably undermined – by holding a disbelieving face for five seconds too long, throwing the head back too dramatically in an overly ostentatious display of agony, or, in Lynn Rafferty’s case, the acting of a second role. As Marie, the street trader and Billy’s mother, Rafferty was wonderful, engaging and credible, the probable star of the show, and yet, as Yvonne, the middle class wife, she became thoroughly mediocre – enacting her frustration by the standard routes of turning this way and that and adding a couple of flapping gestures for good measure. Katie Cleary as the domestic house wife was a bit baffling at the start – she maintained such a fine balance between being subjugated and mentally deranged that I was confused which one she was – but as her scene developed and it became apparent what she had done to her husband, the extreme nature of her character seemed more appropriate and more effectively accomplished. On this occasion and others, though, it seemed a bit like people’s characters were exaggerated too much for the purpose of differentiating one from another and as if, by making them more stereotyped, they would be more interesting to an audience. Each scenario did succeed in capturing my attention but, if they had been subtler and so more realistic, they could have been much more intriguing. For the comprehensive competence, I’m going to give this three stars, but I would have liked to see some more displays of promise and potential.

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