Jul 01 2008
According to the Devious Theatre Company:
The Devious Theatre Company was formed in May 2006 by some theatre loving Kilkennyians who had a desire to bring fresh and different works to the local stage.
After our first meeting, our objective was crystal clear: Accessible and alternative theatre for young people. And by young people, we meant the people who frequent cinemas, pubs and gigs on the weekend and who mightn’t even consider heading along to catch a piece of theatre. The people who consider theatre to be a little academic or a little too boring or even too expensive, coonsidering you could spend that money on a few pints. We wanted to show how exciting theatre could be, how worthwhile an endeavour it is and most of all, how entertaining it is.
And as for the people who already loved theatre? Well, we wanted to stage productions that would excite them. Productions that are new, fresh, different and, well, devious.
Last week, they staged a highly ambitious version of Irvine Welsh‘s novel Trainspotting, which looks at drug use and depression in the poverty stricken Scotland of the 1980’s. When I first heard that Devious Theatre were putting this on, I was both excited (at the prospect of seeing one of my favourite movies transfered to the stage) but also very nervous (I didn’t see how they could possibly pull off some of the more harsh and difficult to watch parts of the novel). I was concerned about how they were going to get around showing people shooting up, I was worried about the scene in which a baby dies, I was terrified of the prospect of seeing Spud throw his faeces covered sheets open to the room. I made sure to book tickets and gather a group to come with me.
A couple of people in our posse had never seen Trainspotting before, nor had they read the book, so I was curious to see how they would perceive it too. Thankfully, we were all completely overwhelmed by the production. The clever set (the repeated use of one couch, moved around the stage to change the seen, worked brilliantly) was not too sparse but not heavy on props, which helped the audience to focus on the actors. The lighting was very effective, a tribute to the excellent Watergate Theatre and to the lighting director, Gerry Taylor.
The music was one of the most impressive things in the show, however. As important and pivotal as it was in the movie, Devious Theatre have put their own slant on it and made it integral to the success of the show. Three moments of perfection stick out. The introduction of uber-drugdealer Mother Superior to the Beatles’ Happiness is a Warm Gun ensured the character was seen as epic and near iconic (as he was to Renton and his compadres). The brilliantly frightening scene when Begbie drags Renton out of his rehab malaise singing Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere (incidentally, this song seems to be following me this week. It was playing in the bar on Thursday evening; it appeared during our 90’s music night; then it was in the play and again at the aftershow party. Yesterday it was on the radio at some point in the afternoon. Strange!). Probably my favourite scene in the entire play was the moment Tommy shoots up for the first time. It’s sad, it’s depressing, contained in one tiny corner at the front of the stage. All the while Portishead’s Roads is playing, punctuating the loneliness of the moment.
Music, direction, set design, lighting – all this aside, the true measure of this play’s quality was in the acting. These supposed amateurs deserve a multitude of awards for their performances. A cast which shared some roles, the eleven strong troupe, directed by Niamh Moroney and John Morton, were nothing short of brilliant. Morton, in addition to his acting duties, played Sick Boy. Stephen Colfer played a quirkily pathetic Spud, while the iconic Mother Superior was played by Paul Young. Maria Murray, as Alison, had one of the toughest moments on stage where she lost her child during a drug fueled stupour. Tough to watch, it pulled the heartstrings.
But the three performances which stood out were Niall Sheehy’s Begbie, Ken McGuire’s Tommy and Ross Costigan’s Mark ‘Rent Boy‘ Renton. Niall‘s performance was nothing short of terrifying. As the addicted-to-violence Begbie, he scared everyone he met. When he moved into the audience shouting (not singing) Road to Nowhere, it was one of the high points of the play. As I said above, Ken, in the role of Tommy, was the focus of my favourite scene of the play. It was depressing to see this formerly healthy sporty guy descend into a drug addled and then disease addled junkie. Very sad.
But the star of the show was Ross as Renton. He is in almost every scene and nails every moment. His dialogue is tough but he delivers it perfectly, especially the famous ‘Choose Life‘ speech which actually made my hairs stand on end. His incredible mix of brutal emotion with stark comedy epitomised Welsh’s novel. Ross, my hat goes off to you – you are too talented. Here he is, in character, after the play:
An incredible night overall, it’s is just a shame it didn’t have a longer run. I would have returned and I would have dragged dozens of people with me. Well done to everyone who was involved and I’m already looking forward to Devious Thetare‘s next production, an original piece, by John Morton, chronicling life in Kilkenny. See you in Kilkenny in August.