GRIFFIN THEATRE COMPANY: Three sisters living in a remote fishing village on the West Coast of Ireland are haunted by the past, in this lyrical and memorable play by Enda Walsh.
In a rundown and claustrophobic cottage in a remote fishing village in the west of Ireland, three sisters – Clara (Genevieve Mooy), Breda (Odile Le Clézio) and Ada (Jane Phegan) – shelter from the outside world.
For many decades, the three spinsters have endlessly and collectively relived the critical moment in each of their lives, which shattered their safe transition into womanhood. These stories or memories are recited, almost verbatim, a series of intersecting monologues interrupted by occasional interjections from one sibling or another to ensure the story remains true to form – no matter how self-harming or tumultuous.
As the three sisters enter into and relive their worst memory – ad nauseum – they engage in violent outbursts to ensure their story is retold precisely – only popping back into the real world to enquire about the iced coffee cake on the table and whether they might have a “wee cup of tea”.
A glimmer of hope comes in the form of the dorky Patsy (Justin Smith), the man who delivers the women their fish and keeps them informed about all the comings and goings of their tiny town – much to their abject disgust and blunt objections.
This unlikely lad may just offer a glimmer of hope for the youngest sister, Ada; a chance to avoid the same unbearable fate as her siblings by escaping from their psychological imprisonment into the freedom of the real world.
Playwright Edna Walsh’s beautiful, lyrical language is poignant, dynamic and revealing, and never falters. A number of tragically beautiful moments endear the unfortunate characters and their unhappy circumstances to the audience. The play also delights us with a few charming surprises, including a smooth as caramel crooning session.
Together, lighting and set design create a wonderful world of isolation and dilapidation which fully supports the character’s emotional and psychological torment; as do the costume changes, which transform them into garish versions of their naïve younger selves as they re-enact or relive their past trauma on a night out at The New Electric Ballroom.
Dramatically, the entire cast are excellent, never missing a beat as they support one another through the string of monologues which comprise much of the piece. The staged fights they engage in, unfortunately, are - from certain angles - not as successful, with obviously missed blows hindering the drama and falling short of the desired effect. Despite this, The New Electric Ballroom is an exciting work of theatre, and worth all the iced coffee cakes in Ireland.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
The New Electric Ballroom
By Enda Walsh
Presented by Siren Theatre Co and Griffin Independent
Directed by Kate Gaul
Set Design by Tom Bannerman
Composition and Sound Design by Daryl Wallis
Lighting Design by Verity Hampson
With Odile Le Clézio, Genevieve Mooy, Jane Phegan and Justin Smith
SWB Stables Theatre
March 7 – 31
Running time: 90 minutes without an interval