Tape – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: Stephen Belber

Director: Rob McFeely

Reviewer: Saoirse Anton

Three old school-friends reunite in a motel room, with one memory from senior year. No, three memories of the same moment in senior year. Fregoli Theatre Company’s production of Stephen Belber’s Tape is an intense and engaging theatrical experience that explores ideas of memory, friendship, motive, and perception.

Vince (Peter Shine), drug dealer and volunteer fireman, has come to Michigan to support his high-school friend, John (Jarlath Tivnan), at the Lancing film festival. Or that’s what the audience is led to believe. However, as is the case with most of the seemingly obvious facts in this play, all is not as it seems. Belber’s well-paced script keeps the audience on its toes with overwhelmingly human characters and denouements to die for.  Examining the relationships John and Vince had with their school-friend Amy, Belber questions differing perceptions of events, issues of consent, and each of the characters’ motivation for dredging up the same decade-old memory with sharp insight and skill.

Fregoli bring this script to the stage with vigour, with each actor giving their character an intensity and vulnerability that leaves the audience rapt. Though there are a few missed beats in delivery: leaving awkward stresses on certain lines, and lost potential in others, the performances are, for the most part, well-tuned and engaging. Particularly impressive is Eilish McCarthy’s performance as Amy. Though the play is, for the most part, centred around Vince and John, McCarthy commands the stage, giving a necessary strength which, were it lost, could lead to the character of Amy simply acting as a vehicle for Vince and John to work through their stories. Despite the two men using Amy and their past with her as a means of confronting their issues as friends, McCarthy’s Amy is a forcefully three dimensional character who steers the play through its ever-changing course and opens up questions about the creation of female characters for the stage.

The set has stripped-bare walls and mess strewn across the motel room. It efficiently captures the seemingly chaotic layering of truth, lies and the perceived-truth that together form the fabric of this production. This, combined with McFeely’s direction makes good use of a sometimes challenging space.

Weaving a web of questions (and laying the foundations for the audience to create their own web of answers) about perception, human relationships, motivation, and respect, Tape is a tightly constructed, bitingly insightful production that will leave its mark long after the curtain goes down.

Reviewed on 7 December 2016 | Image: Contributed

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