Spinning at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

On Wednesday 1st of October last I attended an edgy, gripping performance of “Spinning” at The Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. The production was written by Deirdre Kinahan (Halcyon Days). Directed by Jim Culleton, Set Designed by Sabine Dargent, Costume Design by Leonore McDonagh, Lighting Design by Kevin Smith, Hair and Make-up Design not credited This edgy, unsettling drama is set on a symbolic, isolated, raised tidal island in a dark, spacious limbo observed by darkened audience from three sides. Anticipation stirs as the house lights darken and the characters brighten through the gloom, revealed on a raised, hard, weathered copper surface, the edges encrusted with exposed low-tide marine molluscs. Sabine Dargent presents the performance space as a two tiered low raised flat topped irregular shaped rostrums. They appear to be topped in sections of weathered copper or brass sheeting which gives a slightly reflective patina and muted hardness to the surface. The rostra facia is textured as low-tide exposed rock or harbour wall, encrusted with molluscs and fragments of marine detritus. The undercut facia is under-lit, which is used sparingly to dramatic effect. The rostrum levels a texturally welded to the level below by a rim of encrusted molluscs, grit and fragments of marine detritus. Has the tide has gone out for Conor? The timely lit performance areas within the space and the smooth queuing of the performers bring the audience effortlessly from setting to setting and from time to time. The centre stage performance space is anchored by a small round metal, glass topped table and two chairs with character. Overall presentation is visually pleasing and appropriate to the drama; the scenic elements are economically skeletal and effective. The backing of blackdrapes an partially lit back wall of the theatre gave a subdued starkness to the space. This assisted in confining the observer’s attention on the performers, an effect which was supported by Kevin Smith’s lighting. Leonore McDonagh’s Costume Design was effective in giving the characters a credible appearance/sense of being in/from suburban Dublin, in/at a rural seaside small town. Self-employed/Working class, 17, 25 to 40 year olds in a confused contemporary society. As the drama unfolds the encroaching mental and physical deterioration of Conor was convincingly supported by his unchanging attire, symbolising his inability to change. This in contrast to the costume changes reflecting the growing confidence and assertiveness of Conor’s estranged wife. The Lighting Design was subtle and sensitive in conveying changes of location, time and bringing emphasis to dramatic moments. Overall a contained, dramatically claustrophobic setting in which this edgy, unsettling drama unfolds. The programme was good value at €5.00 apart from information on Fishamble, biographies on the cast and crew it contained the script with the writers stage directions. Programmes that provide useful content such as the Director’s view on the play and/or comments and sketches by the designers giving insight into some of the thought process behind the concept development are to be encouraged. Such input from the Director and the Designers is of immense value to students of Design for Stage and Screen, Performance, Design for Performance and when provided is to be welcomed. Jim Culleton: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2614266/ Sabine Dargent: http://www.sabinedargent.com/ Leonore McDonagh: http://www.irishplayography.com/person.aspx?personid=473 Kevin Smith: http://www.kevinsmith.ie/ Fishamble: http://fishamble.com/ Smock alley: http://smockalley.com/ See also: https://www.dublintheatrefestival.com/Online/Spinning