ThereisBear! theatre manage to transform Smock Alley’s heavenly Boys School space into the dingiest hole in Dublin town for a couple of hours with a new production of Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus. You’ll leave the play feeling dirty, like you might need to wash off specks of guts and worms that you imagine the speakers flicking off into the crowd, but like the play tells you, “sure isn’t that what a shower is for?”
Characters A, B, and C deliver three cycles of fast flowing monologues, all written in O’Rowes stunning verse. The three stories, equally grotesque and fantastical, intertwine as the two women and a man make their way around town; on foot, at the wheel of a truck, or in the arms of a body made up of 10,000 worms. Details like this could throw you, and the speed at which the plots are unfolded does mean the audience can trip up and get lost in the snap of a rhyme, but the cast do good work snatching you back in. O’Rowes writing doesn’t hang around, but the actors propel the narrative in such a compelling manner that you are happy to make up for your own loss.
Deborah Wiseman plays A, the ex-teacher turned Samaritan who is on a grand quest to save an old student who has gone down the wrong path. Her character has plenty of interaction with lively Dubs and Wiseman does a fantastic job of switching personas and voice changeovers from the calm mother to a rowdy thug. A’s story quietly touches on the topic of abortion, an understated segment of the play which provides lasting lingering thought.
Fiona Lucia McGarry gave the best performance, eased by the fact that O’Rowe gives B the most intimate and personal role. McGarry tells her own story with a wonderfully casual tone, gushing over a flirtation in a pub and releasing after sex with her worm-soul saviour. It took her a while to reach full energy, her plummeting from the top of a crane lacked total convincing power, but made up for it in the last cycle in which she commanded the narrative.
C’s story is one of surreal violence, delightfully played by Stephen Murray. C has wrongfully sold his soul to the devil in order to seduce women, and in anger over the fine print he didn’t read he lives his life as a sex-fuelled spree, but must pair his climax with the death of his mate. A gruesome character to fulfil, Murray sets into the grime with ease, noting on the playbill that Terminus is his favourite play. His enthusiasm is evident in his greasy facial acting, his smile more and more sinister as the bodycount rises. Highlight of the play was when Murray managed to deliver an order of twenty of the essential Irish crisps and sweets at a filling-station, marvellously conducting a rhyme which fits in Lucozade Sport, a packet of Chickatees, and everything in between.
All give a great energy to the movement of the play, commendable in light of the monologue form which they render as full of life as possible. The set and lighting are not particularly exciting, but little is needed to augment the delivery of the verse by the cast. The scene takes place in only a small corner of the already intimate Boys School, a move which brings the audience deeper into the trouble and makes it easier for the cast to reach out and bring you along with them.
ThereisBear! have put on the most entertaining piece of theatre I’ve seen in a long time and each member of the cast seemed to be enjoying the ride just as much as myself. Their production of Terminus will delight anyone looking for a play that goes outside of any comfort zone, and the sprawling adventure turns out to be a curiously debauched but nonetheless heartfelt tribute to Dublin.
Terminus runs until January 8 in the Boys School at Smock Alley Theatre before going on tour to Town Hall Studio in Galway.