DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Talk Real Fine, Just Like a Lady – Peacock, Dublin

Creators: Amanda Coogan, Lianne Quigley, Alvean Jones, Breda O’Grady, Valerie Moore, and Paula Clarke

Director: Amanda Coogan

Reviewer: Sarah Hoover

Live art that both illuminates and challenges is based in intentionality. From the moment the audience walks into the Peacock box office for Amanda Coogan’s Talk Real Fine, Just Like a Lady, we are guided by kind hands into a way of communicating which incorporates multiple texts, multiple media, and a shared sense of presence pulling together past, present and future. Entirely unpacking this performance devised with the Dublin Theatre of the Deaf from Teresa Deevy’s work would take multiple viewings and multiple pages.

Poking our heads out from under the audience-covering skirts of the disapproving Mrs. Marks (played by Lorraine Creed, Valerie Moore and Ann O ‘Neill seated on stools above us) we witness a minimalist ballet originating with Irish Sign Language. As in any performance, understanding more of the context (such as the womens’ ISL taught to strictly segregated groups in the 1930s) would no doubt add to its depth, but this reviewer remained fascinated with the variety and eloquence of expression in the delicacy of hand movement, shapes created by fingers, faces and arms, the violence or gentleness of gesture, and the flavors added to unison or separate sequences performed by each individual “Annie”, also planted in the audience space: Paula Clarke, Alvean Jones, Breda O’Grady, Lianne Quigley and Coogan herself.  Their placement within the audience, connected to us by the gauze skirts so that movement somewhere brought ripples everywhere, emphasizes the ways in which deaf culture is both within and separate from hearing culture. Likewise the layers of multimedia reference this sometimes invisible intermixing. Screen projections include the writing and unwriting of Padraic Collum’s poem A Drover, a sound score based on Beethoven by Áine Fay rumbles through the space, an enunciated duet sonically fades into Paula Clarke’s breathily performed solo while triumphant backlighting silhouettes her like an opera star.

The performance also points to the ongoing repression of deaf culture. Clarke’s beautiful solo is broken by hairbrushes wielded to encumber her, and the final projection – of a protest in support of state recognition of the still-unrecognised Irish Sign Language – leaves us in no doubt that this text “on the body” (Coogan) is still underappreciated.

Runs until 23 September 2017 | Image: Contributed

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