The Wise Wound – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writer: Teri FitzGerald

Director: Philip Doherty

Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty

Writer Teri FitzGerald who along with most of the cast is a Gaiety School of Acting graduate, used Louisa May Alcott’s celebrated book as the basis for this farcical piece. American novelist Alcott’s semi-autobiographical and renowned work, Little Women is a coming of age passage about the four young March daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy during the American civil war.

Essentially, The Wise Wound is taking an unadulterated swipe at the novel with its saccharine portrayal of docile femininity in the patriarchal ideology of the 19th Century. Juxtaposing the suffragette movement and race with gender conflict this ensemble group hilariously subverts Alcott’s narrative, distorting it into a nonsensical comedy. The plot revolves around Jo and Amy’s efforts to hijack the proposed wedding of their sister Meg to local politician John Brooke. Alcott’s characters are parodied also, transformed into metatheatrical caricatures of the originals. Thus, the sickly Beth is reduced to a wheelchair-bound, whining, attention-seeking victim, Meg is mawkish and histrionic, and Amy is a scheming little vixen. Additionally, central to the performance is the comedic exploits of the militant feminist despot Jo, whose struggles with her sexual identity culminate in allowing her to have a lesbian union.

This black comedy energetically incorporates a range of styles including melodrama, carnival and knockabout. Supporting the main characters, and enlivening the performance even more, the background large cast of men and women act as a kind of chorus interweaving scenes with singing, dancing and movement, all perfectly executed.

While the group’s talents, dynamism and virtuosity are obvious – particularly Teri FitzGerald’s Amy and Clodagh Mooney Duggan’s Jo, this piece lacked cohesiveness in parts. Too many styles were employed and the interactions meandered all over the place. At times performances hovered between overdone and predictable laughs and irritating hysteria. It would be far better to simplify the format and concentrate on a tighter but more polished end result. The slapstick elements also needed to be sharper and more defined. Perhaps these minor failings relate to directorial choices. Having pointed this out, it is important to be aware that humour of course is always subjective, as the old proverb goes, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’

All in all, The Wise Wound has a lot going for it. It is entertaining and there are wonderful comic elements. Importantly, also the vibrant audience appeared to relish in full the show’s witty repartee and fun.

Runs until April 2nd 2015 | Image: courtesy of Smock Alley.

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