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Review of Indelible Images at Canal Cafe Theatre – Camden Fringe

Indelible ImagesEvery now and again a one-off fringe production can spark fantastic excitement in an audience as a thrill runs through a theatre that comes alive with the knowledge that they might be seeing, perhaps, a future star or two. This was the case with Indelible Images, the three new one-act plays put on during the Camden Fringe at the Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice, London. All three were good but the centre-piece was outstanding. Liam McCarthy’s A Talent for Lying has matured since it had its first outing with Octopus Soup Theatre in Dublin last year, as has the actress Sinead O’Brien who plays Lucy. McCarthy himself acted Aidan with Ivan Luis as the horribly realistic grumpy immigrant waiter who pretends to neither speak nor understand English. It came as no surprise to discover that Luis, a Madrid-based actor and director, has actually starred in The Dumb Waiter.

McCarthy, who studied advanced playwriting at Trinity College, Dublin has written a tight, comic, heartbreaking script that plunges a viewer straight into the unintended honesty, innocent subterfuge and heartbreak of youth on the prowl for romance. We, like Lucy, are never quite sure if Aidan is really looking for love or simply in love with the idea of it. The play is the working out of a fantasy of two people, one of them a writer, meeting and how their future together might unfold. A terrible fate awaits a Lucy who might take seriously an apparent invitation to get involved. She’s leaving Ireland for England to work in any case so is not really available, which is of course part of her attraction. We are tormented by the beautifully expressive McCarthy, who acts out how much easier it is for the young literary male to fall in love with an unavailable female, than one that might be terrifyingly up for the dreaded “c” word. We see in front of us how much more inspiring for a creative talent it might seem to have a romantic love that is unfulfilled, rather than one that might ever move on to embrace the quotidian detail of normal life. We realise eventually that the only thing that was ever going to be seduced or awakened in this meeting was imagination.

O’Brien is a luminous stage presence with a stunning smile and interesting but truly beautiful features. It was impossible to take my eyes of either her or McCarthy when they were on stage. A Talent for Lying, directed by Sarah Bradley and presented here by Octopus Soup, is a class piece of work and surely we will be hearing more of its writer as well as the other actors on both sides of the Atlantic in future.

The three plays were produced by Amelia Sweetland, who has been producing, directing and performing in new work at the Arcola. She wrapped them all in an intensity that made all three shine with energy. Watching three plays in one sitting became a pleasure as a result, like a beautifully-cooked three course meal, rather than anything more demanding of stamina as such things can seem sometimes on the fringe. I wondered if they had considered calling it Edible Images.

Sweetland wrote and performed in the first piece, Sharp Edges, which is a “work in progress” but for all that is powerful. She was directed in this by Annie McKenzie. She in turn directed the third piece, Happiness is a Cup of Tea, written and performed by McKenzie. So there were many cross-overs through these pieces yet they were all completely different.

Sharp Edges is a tale of our times. A successful woman has made money on property, has had a good working life, but is still childless, living on her own. Her mother is frantic with worry, but is unable to help because the two cannot communicate effectively. We see this through the way social media and the internet is used around this relationship, how modern social media seem almost to have put up barriers rather than taken them down between the generations. It is a play of expectations versus reality, of the tragedies that lie beneath enviable trappings of success. We realise the woman who lost a child is still a lost child herself.

Happiness is a Cup of Tea has a title that speaks immediately to my own heart. Mine was a large, coffee-drinking family. When a friend introduced me to mugs of tea at age 11, I became happy and have remained so, more or less, ever since. Life was that simple. McKenzie’s play is a monologue about death and memory, whether memories are real or just dreams, whether they are our own or someone else’s. We hear an impossible dreams of relationships lasting 50 years. We are drawn to ponder the reality of dementia. This is a sad play about the future but it is a good ending to the evening, redeemed by its own truth in addressing inescapable internal realities of the present day.

These are the subjects pre-occupying our young playwrights and directors. It was a kind of odd feeling, witnessing how their youthful hopes for the future matched up against my own, much older, lived reality. Presumably, some of their fears and dreams have come from witnessing the successes and failures of their parents’, my own, generation, and working out the implications in their own minds as they seek to find their own paths. All the best drama, I find, teaches me something. From this night I learned how to improve as a mother, I understood again the things about young men I wish I had known in my 20s and came a little closer to an understanding of the dementia that has recently slain my own mother. It was a brilliant night at the theatre, the best, and I would happily go and see it all again.
4 stars

Review by Ruth Gledhill

Indelible Images is a showcase of new writing from three emerging writers and theatre-makers which is coming to the Canal Cafe Theatre as part of Camden Fringe on 16th August 2015 at 6.30 p.m. for one night only.

Each show has been selected for its curiosity about memory and the part it plays in our lives and evolving identities.

Themes of loss, shame, trauma, memory. Do we remember or do we imagine? How do we distort our memory for the good, the bad and the in between?

The first piece, Sharp Edges is written and performed by Amelia Sweetland. This inaugural work in progress, which will be premiering at Camden Fringe this year is a monologue exploring themes of shame and memory . Sophie, who has diligently run from her past is confronted with happy memories that she can reclaim once more.

A Talent For Lying – written by Liam McCarthy (Octopus Soup Theatre).
Actors: Liam McCarthy and Sinead O’Conor.
The second piece, A Talent For Lying was first performed at Dublin’s Chancery Lane in March 2014, directed by Sarah Bradley (Octopus Soup Theatre).

Happiness is A Cup of Tea – written and performed by Annie Mckenzie.
The final piece; a monologue first performed at The Hen and Chickens in 2014, is an exploration of bereavement, grief and the distortion of memory. Fiona has a lot of memories she’s not sure are memories anymore and might actually just be dreams.

Saturday 22nd August 2015


  • Ruth Gledhill

    Ruth Gledhill, on Twitter @ruthiegledhill, contributes regularly with reviews for London and regional shows, as well as reporting on press launches. Ruth Gledhill has worked on The Times from 1987 to 2014. Before that she was a news reporter and feature writer on The Daily Mail. She wrote her first theatre review, Tennessee Williams 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', while serving indentures at The Birmingham Post & Mail. After leaving the Midlands in 1984 she decided to concentrate on news. She is delighted to be able to revive her love of writing about the stage as a critic for London Theatre. Public profile http://journalisted.com/ruth-gledhill

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