As the audience enter the auditorium Mac and Mona are seated on a bench surrounded by the detritus of a run-down, abandoned housing estate – lots of old food packaging, a shopping trolley lying on its side, bits of paper etc. There’s the sound of a cold, sharp wind blowing and the blackness of the theatre’s walls draw us into the misery of The Plains Of Delight.
Mona wears dark glasses and we learn from Mac that she’s blind struck down by a virus on a trip to the Andes. Mona’s both literally and metaphorically in the dark as Mac has convinced her that they’re still in the Andes and at Mona’s insistence, Mac must describe what he’s seeing and where they are – time after time after time. Theirs is a boring and mundane existence living in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world. As Mac tells Mona “Today will be the same as yesterday”.
The two characters have Irish accents and there are echoes of Samuel Beckett in a lot of the dialogue and plot. There are some excellent lines such as Mac saying to no-one that Mona is “All alone in her head of memories”. Nothing much is happening and as Beckett said about Waiting For Godot, “Nothing happens twice”. The same could easily be said for The Plains Of Delight until the arrival of Alfie who’s a ball of destructive energy and Jarry who seems to be Alfie’s mute slave who she drags around by a dog lead. The play which is already dark takes on an even darker tone and the lives of Mac and Mona are never going to be the same.
This is a bleak, surreal fantasy that works on some levels but not others. It’s basically a play of two halves (although there’s no interval) and whilst I was really enjoying the first part with its Beckett-like overtones, the arrival of Alfie and Jarry didn’t really work and took the piece away from surrealism into a kind of realism that just seemed to jar with the first part. The performances of the cast were all very good and each had their moment in the sun (or should that be dark?) with separate monologues although I wasn’t sure if the Pinteresque pauses were meant or the actors were searching for their next line. As the couple who never move from the bench, Gary Cain gave Mac a gentle Irish lugubriousness and Laura Perry was wistful as the deluded Mona. Bex Sian-Jane Evans as the crazed Alfie was a whirlwind of a disturbance and Rish Shah as Jarry looked totally demented with his staring Kohl-edged eyes.
Overall, The Plains Of Delight at just fifty minutes or so in length is an interesting piece of theatre and Colm Molloy the young playwright is an interesting writer who I’m certain will go on to become an even better writer than he is now. I’m not totally sure what he was getting at with the piece; maybe like his obvious influence, Samuel Beckett was it just Molloy’s take on the sheer bleakness of the human condition. If that was his aim, it’s a shame that someone so young looks at the world through pessimistic, dark eyes. Maybe his next piece will be a little bit more optimistic and hopeful.
Review by Alan Fitter
Morning. An abandoned housing estate. A bench. A breeze. Mac and Mona go about their daily routine, but are interrupted by two passers by.
‘The Plain of Delight’ is a new one-act play by Colm Molloy premiering at Theatre Utopia, Matthew’s Yard in July.
Cast: Gary Cain (playing Mac), Laura Perry (playing Mona), Bex Sian-Jane Evans (playing Alfie), Rish Shah (playing Jarry)
Crew: Colm Molloy (writer/director), Francessca Charlemagne (producer)
Thursday 27th July until Saturday 29th July
1 Matthews Yard, Croydon, CR0 1FF