Natural Disaster, Theatre Review, MAC, March 15th
By Conor O’Neill
Let’s start with the set. Looks like a carpenter with a wonky protractor and a saw that seen and saw him coming built it. A timber structure, angles everywhere: diagonals, verticals, horizontals; everything but an arch. Which is quite noticeable when you see the show and read the tag-line: ‘Preparation, Response, Recovery, Reconstruction’. If there was ever a play about redemption and curves and circles, this is it.
This play says so much with such little actual dialogue.
Writer and actor Roisin Gallagher, who I’ve seen as Sally in The Holy, Holy Bus way back in 2016, most recently in The Man Who Fell To Pieces, probably handed over a one page script for 50 odd minutes of theatre. Imagine that. Most young writers try too hard and lose the plot somewhere in the middle. Tinderbox embraces this approach: unnerving, edgy, suffocating, wry humour and of course, a tale that’ll mean something different to every person watching it.
Director, P. J O’Reilly, loves this kind of canvas. He calls theatre ‘play’; Gallagher must have read a book on theatre and threw it in the recycling bin. Natural Disaster is equally disturbing, redemptive and migraine intense. Yes, there’s a storm, the sound of rain and howling wind are almost perpetual through out the show, But this is not a tale about hurricanes, lava flows, or the Earth cracking and shaking. Not in the literal sense: metaphorically? Definitely.
The timber structure could be situated anywhere. I immediately thought of Kansas, The Wizard Of Oz; quite comparable really. There is a road, a journey, no munchkins though, and the wicked witch is in our protagonist’s head. A fractured bone, we can all handle; a fractured mind, takes some beating.
A pair of boots, soil, flower pots, a magazine and not much else to play with, it’s left to Gallagher to use her physical skills to get the viewer entranced and entrenched. Burbling back noises, speech, wind, rain, run the entire show. All 120 of us crowded into the MAC’s mains stage sat back, silence. I checked the time when Gallagher first spoke. Over 25 minutes in. Isaac Gibson as sound director knows his stuff.
Rain, wind, a loss, voices, noises, all play their part as much as Roisin Gallagher plays her role. We never find out the character’s name, it’s not important anyway. Grief, love, loss are all universal.
The collapse, the remembering the rendering, the discovery, the redemption all comes to this stunning piece of theatre. Set and lighting designer, Ciaran Bagnall, winner of The Irish Times Best Design award, really shows muscle. Shadows and dropping and brightening lights bring us closer to the action than we really want to be.
As referenced before, there is a happy ending. No, Dorothy doesn’t meet a faux magician. There are no love scenes; it’s all a love scene. Just a story of a woman facing the inevitable.
I dare you to see this show and not walk out unchanged and unhinged.
Edgy theatre at the very edge.
Natural Disaster only runs for two days, Saturday evening, the 16th is already sold out. A matinee runs at 3pm. Book now.
For booking information phone the box office: 02890 235053 or visit http://www.themaclive.com