Director: Richard Baron
Writer: Frank McGuinness
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Frank McGuinness is oft-cited as one of Ireland’s greatest dramatists. In his 90-minute, one-act, one-woman monologue The Match Box, McGuinness offers a running commentary in the headspace of a woman on the verge.
The barren set is a metaphor for McGuinness’ protagonist. Sal has little joy in her world. Her story is a painful one, exploring her loves and losses through her own memories. She is otherwise an ordinary woman, but tragic circumstance changed that forever. This dark, revealing tale explores the grief experienced – or that we are expected to experience – in the most tragic of circumstances.
Though bleak, there are moments of sincere light and a necessary dose of comic relief is injected throughout. The play explores difficult themes fairly well, though does take a while to warm up. When in the swing of things, The Match Box is successful in making its audience wonder how we pour over details of tragic events through rolling-news, yet never think how it is to live through tragedy.
The intimacy of The Citizens’ Circle Studio is the setting for the piece, which should have proven perfect for this stripped-back piece. Had the piece been performed in the round – which is not a logistical impossibility – its audience may have had a greater appreciation for some of the subtleties of the performance, as well as preventing craned necks for the whole stint.
Janet Coulson delivers an impressive, constant running commentary from Sal. In dealing with the sheer volume of information to deliver, Coulson loses the finer, more intimate – and potentially more rewarding – details of the role. Calm amongst madness can prove just as powerful as calamity. Nonetheless, Coulson is self-assured in the role and offers some moments that evoke real emotion in an undoubtedly demanding role.
John Beales’ sound proves less appealing. The audience are in close enough proximity to the actor to hear her strike a match; there is therefore no requirement to follow this with a recording of the action one-third of a second later. Given the name of the piece, this happens a frequently and does detract from the significance of the action itself. Less is indeed more; when artistic license is used with a completely stripped set, sound could be used to complement, not replace, simplicity.
The Match Box is a thought-provoking piece; where it may lack polish, it offers a raw and rugged look at the impact tragedy can have on an individual and those around them.
Runs until 24 February 2018 | Image: Contributed