Writer: Tracy Martin
Director: Tracy Martin
Reviewer: David Keane
In an Irish seaside town four people with, apparently, very different lives begin to tell their stories. Carol (Camille Lucy Ross) tends to the every need to her dementing mother and is rapidly losing her patience. Gerry (Donncha O’Dea) is an alcoholic loner with only his faithful dog as a companion, while the young unemployed Karl (Gordon Quigley) has nothing to do but hang around. A young mother, Anne Marie (Aoibhéann McCann), is experiencing mental health problems and two crying children aren’t helping the matter. Their four very different lives are set on a trajectory to collide, for better or worse.
Speaking in an almost stream of consciousness manner these characters provide both their internal thoughts as well the external events happening around them. This negates any need for exposition and the story, by Tracy Martin, hits the ground running. The acting is unquestionably superb, with each character being vividly brought to life as soon as the action begins. These are four meaty roles that hold no punches and their portrayal is truly powerful. While being easily identified as someone everyone knows, O’Dea’s Gerry brings most of the humour to Coast, which is vital to such a dark and atmospheric play.
The passivity of the characters, with the exception of Carol, seems to place the onus of control for their respective lives on the shoulders of others. Their circumstances are tough and indeed dire at times but they don’t seem to do an awful lot to help themselves, living in a state of learned helplessness. As the story progresses change occurs for all four, though it won’t be a unanimous ‘happy ever after’.
Martin’s direction utilises the space, as well as the actors, to their utmost ability. What could easily be confusing is crystal clear, with each character’s individual story working well as a solo performance but eventually coming together to reveal the full impact of Coast.
A minimal set (Ciara Murnane) works perfectly for this bleak piece. Four grey outcrops, apart and alone, face towards an effervescent and ever-changing sea. The hollow sea wind is a constant throughout the play (sound design by Fiona Sheil) and becomes oddly reassuring. Visually, Coast is rather beautiful, adhering to the maxim that less is more.
This 80 minute show explores isolation and captivity, as well as more overt issues such as mental health and alcoholism. It does, thankfully, offer a glimmer of hope. Coast remains dark, long after the houselights have come up.
Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: contributed