Directed by: Anthony Fox
Written by: Ann Matthews
Reviewed by: Ciara Murphy
Written by Ann Matthews and directed by Anthony Fox, Lockout makes its return to The New Theatre for a second time following on from its successful sell-out first run.
Telling the story of the common working class woman during the 1913 Lockout, this piece follows the “unsung hero” Ellen, as she describes the horrors, and brief joys, that have been part of her life ever since the beginning of the strike. With input and historical context in the guise of James Larkin and James Connolly peppering the mainly monologue piece, this performance carefully blends the historical with the artistic in order to deliver an interesting representation of Dublin in 1913.
Katie O’ Kelly plays Ellen and delivers her performance well, rallying sympathy from the audience and commanding the small space. Standing in front of a tiny coffin, the audience are immediately given a sense of the extent of this woman’s suffering and the story unfolds from there. Ian Meehan and John Smyth represent Larkin and Connolly in ways that are very consistent with the dominant historical record of the time. This works well but it would have been interesting to perhaps get a deeper view of these characters in relation to the personal tragedy represented onstage. Matthews cleverly tangles the verbatim past speeches of these two men with the main story being told by Ellen, giving the audience useful context to the progression of her journey.
The symbolism of the distance between Ellen and the two men is certainly the most interesting thing about this piece as it leaves the audience wondering if she was truly being represented at all.However there is something slightly unbelievable about a woman telling her story so succinctly and clearly as she stands in front of the coffin of her deceased child. Unfortunately it is hard to get past this jarring discrepancy in the action, as her portrayal as a grieving mother just doesn’t succeed.
The set, designed by Fionn McShane works well, giving the audience a sense of a space that is both claustrophobic and barre, but in the right amounts. The presence of the violinist, Kelsey Holmes, onstage didn’t quite work. The many musical interludes would have benefited from being longer and less frequent. As they stood they seemed to cut short the atmostphere that they were there to create.
Lockout describes exactly what it claims to do, and due to its abundance of historically accurate facts, functions well not only as a piece of theatre but as a very entertaining summary of one of the worst periods in Dublin’s history.