Writers: Karl Quinn &Clare Barrett
Director: Karl Quinn
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
amid the clink of knives and forks, upstairs in Bewley’s Café Theatre, lies a simple set containing five mismatched chairs. These chairs are empty, lying in wait for the characters of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However the actors never appear onstage, and what began as a promise for a Shakespearean comic epic, quickly turns into an intimate one-woman show.
The lights go up on the harassed stage manager, played by Clare Barrett as she scrambles to locate her cast. Aimlessly babbling and remaining hopeful of the cast’s arrival, it is clear that the audience are in for an unusual performance. Barrett succeeds in these early moments by appearing genuinely petrified, it is hard not to sympathise with her. As she takes a seat on one of the chairs, head in hands, Barrett is propelled into an energetic reproduction of Nick Bottom, one of her missing cast members. The empty chairs seem to be channelling the spirits of their intended inhabitants, and suddenly Barrett is hurtling around the stage, bringing the show to life and delivering on the promise of a lunchtime production.
Playing six characters at once, and with minimal set and props, is no mean feat, which is why Barrett’s consistent energy is so impressive. Although the plot was, at times, confusing, the pace of the production never waned as Barrett focuses in on the audience and works with their responses. As Barrett starts to act out A Midsummer Night’s Dream, tensions build between the “cast”. The audience is treated to a representation of backstage politics and chaos, aided by a heavy dose of narcissism, ensues.
Comedically, Crude Mechanicals needs some work, with the production occasionally bordering on being hammy. Barrett has certainly attained higher comic plains, but nonetheless the breathy, manic entertainment provided by her character works well in a lunchtime theatre setting. Arguably a reasonable knowledge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is helpful but not entirely necessary. Barrett re-packages the bizarre and rambunctious Shakespearean comedy as a more personal production suitable for everyone.
Crude Mechanicals is fantastically lively and a great way to spend a summer afternoon.
Photo courtesy of Bewley’s Café Theatre. Runs until August 16th