Director: Louise Lowe
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Walking into the National Museum at Collins’ Barracks Dublin it is hard not to be awed by the palpable sense of history present in the building. It is these surroundings that Anu Productions have chosen for their latest productionPALS: The Irish at Gallipoli. This performance focuses on the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, including a group of young men who were rugby players in Dublin’s Trinity College. As is Anu’s way, this is not a typical performance as the audience is encouraged to immerse themselves in this site-responsive and powerful theatre piece.
The audience is lead through this experience by four young men, played by Kevin C Olohan, Thomas Reilly, John Cronin, and Liam Heslin. Their story is augmented by Laura Murray who plays a variety of female characters throughout. As the audience is marched away from the public square, and the curious eyes of onlookers and tourists, the atmosphere changes and what seems like play turns to intense reality.
The set, designed by Owen Boss, is a myriad of visual clues reinforced by well placed sound and lighting design (Sarah Jane Shiels and Carl Kennedy). The four men’s movements, overseen by Sue Mythen and director Louise Lowe, combine rugby, war, and play into a powerful choreography that is both haunting and beautiful. There is a great sense of innocence and camaraderie in the communications between the men. A lot is left unsaid, with some of the non-verbal communications the most powerful of all.
What strikes this reviewer the most is both the intelligence and the sensitivity of the piece. Under Lowe’s direction this ensemble display a powerful image of a part of Irish history that is both contentious and divisive. When one soldier turns and asks “Do you think Ireland is proud of us?” it is not an easy answer.
The true success of Anu’s work to date lies in the humanity that overarches everything else in their work andPALS is no different. The precious moments of communion between performer and audience blur the lines between what is real and what is not making for an intense and wonderful feeling of involvement.
This unique experience is not to be missed.
Photo by Patrick Redmond. Runs until April 30th.