By Darragh Byrne

From the June 29th edition of The Kilkenny Reporter

The trilogy of plays which have kept audiences in Kilkenny entertained finally comes to an end this week in the Arts Office with the last of the series, Smitten. Devious Theatre have used social media, clever marketing and brilliant design like no other group in the country to draw people into their crazy world.

It surely lives up to the hype – a pitch perfect blend of humour and pathos. Not one beat of this play fails to get a laugh or raise an emotion. It is an ensemble piece about a group of friends in their twenties whose love life it depicts in all the shades from technicolour to grey. This play is about the gap between our fantasies and the harshness of reality. The whole thing was like a beautiful dream which suddenly wakes you up to the horror of mundane life in Kilkenny. The main character returns from abroad to try to make amends for dumping her boyfriend by helping out other people’s doomed affairs.

The sense of place is very profound in the writing with names of streets and rituals raising a laugh of recognition. This work resonates beyond the colloquial though by finding truths in love affairs that everyone can understand. There are many techniques used to break it out to the audience and it never bores for an instant. This is Devious Theatre’s most straight forward and yet most manic piece, shifting gears constantly but never letting up for a second.

The use of the musical numbers is very clever. For anyone who groans at the way a Hollywood movie breaks out into song and everyone starts dancing, this will provide a cure. Too often we cynically dismiss these films whose romance and innocence hold a lot of emotion for our childhood selves. There is jazz hands but this is definitely a musical for people who hate musicals. A great big helping of filthy wit is at hand to contrast with the spectacle of umbrellas twirling and hoofing thesps.

The performances are as always uniformly superb. The two leads Annette O’Shea and Dave Thompson prove themselves to be the two finest actors to emerge recently from Kilkenny and it seems only a matter of time before casting agents come calling from the big time. Jack O’Leary and Amy Dunne are both hilarious as an odd couple who can’t stay away from each other. Ken McGuire and Maria Murray are really believable as the pair dealing with pregnancy, with the finest example of drunk acting I have ever seen on stage. John Morton equips himself well as the nice guy with a dark past and Suzanne O’Brien is just right for the girl lost in musicals. Even the stock characters played by Kevin Mooney and Lynsey Moran are made real by two lovely comic performances.

It is really sad for fans of great theatre that this residency is over. Everybody in the local arts office must be applauded for their vision in helping to make this the cultural event of the year in Kilkenny. If you don’t have a ticket for this play go and get one straight away. People will be teasing you for years to come that you missed it. The most important play and funniest night out you will ever experience in this city. You will leave it singing and dancing with a huge rush of joy to your heart. Theatrical Prozac!

Photos by Nathanael McDonald.

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