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No One is Coming (Bitesize) at Riverside Studios | Review

Sinead is in a tent with her father, she’s asking him about what he did when she was a child, we don’t hear the answer. O’Brien is a charismatic and charming storyteller who walks us through fairy tales and childhood trauma alike, all while holding the audience with affection and warmth.

No One is Coming (Bitesize) at Riverside Studios
No One is Coming (Bitesize) at Riverside Studios.

We start by hearing about Sinead’s mother being arrested under the 2001 mental health act. We learn that she ran away from home at 17 and is estranged from her mother. At first, we are given no information as to why. From there we dive into a rich folk story. The story is long and detailed, sometimes too much so. It is an interesting story and O’Brien tells the story well, but it is at times difficult to understand what the metaphor is. In between the meaty folk stories are brief snippets of an autobiographical story that covers sexual abuse, rape and addiction. Some would argue that these are topics with so much weight that brief snippets are not enough, however, I do not think these topics are thrown around lightly.

Structurally the show is strange. The folk stories take up the vast majority of the show, leaving the autobiography of the show brief moments in between. Perhaps the folk stories were there to offer a metaphorical exploration of the themes illuminated in the autobiography; if they were, this was lost on me.

The signalling of an entrance into folk stories through the use of gentle and subtle lighting shifts. There is a simplicity to this and it works to great effect. A simple worker’s costume is evocative of the Irish countryside and there is comfort in this. O’Brien is a very likeable storyteller and welcomes us in, a connection to the audience is tangible from the word go.

I cannot help but wonder what this show is for. That sounds cruel, and possibly more so than I mean, but so little time is spent on her childhood trauma that many moments feel unfinished or unexplored. You might, however, posit that not knowing, or understanding positions the audience in the same place as a child who is not told everything, hears snippets and struggles to understand. If this is the effect then it deserves great credit. I really cannot make my mind up.

Overall, O’Brien is a terrific storyteller, I was held in her palm throughout and cared deeply for the character she presented. As much as Irish folklore is a rich and intriguing literary world, I missed what it was in this play for. O’Brien has curated a tender storytelling experience that allows the audience to think, ponder and consider, something we do not always get in theatre.

3 Star Review

Review by Tom Carter

Growing up in a home surrounded by mental health and addiction issues, it’s surprising that Sinéad never realised her family was different until other people pointed it out. And now they never stop pointing it out….

Encompassing elements of Irish folklore, this storytelling performance is full of anecdotes and myth, funny stories and tough home truths. It’s a rollercoaster experience inside a fun (if slightly traumatized) Irish woman’s brain.

Created and performed by Sinéad O’Brien. Originally directed by Sahand Sahebdivani.

COMPANY
Sinéad O’Brien, supported by Octopus Soup Theatre and the Aidan Stark Company

NO ONE IS COMING (BITESIZE)
SAT 12TH – SUN 13TH FEB 2022
https://riversidestudios.co.uk/

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