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The following review appears in the current edition (July 8th 2011) of The Munster Express, penned by Liam Murphy who was in attendance at the Monday performance of Smitten. We would like to thank Liam and The Munster Express for taking the time out to travel to Kilkenny for each of Scratcher, Shifting and Smitten as part of our residency here at No. 76 and carrying words like these in the papers. The online world can only get you so far and we’re absolutely aware of and thankful for the support of traditional and broadcast media throughout the residency and the past five years of The Devious Theatre Company.
The excellent Devious Theatre Company completed their residency with Kilkenny Arts Office with an updating of another John Morton play – Smitten – a Kilkenny love story, a play that wants to be a musical. As ever there is a newness, a freshness, an in-your faceness about Devious that does not have a Waterford equivalent – mores the pity. They seem to assemble excellent casts, time after time and convert spaces into site-specific performance places.
Smitten is a contemporary love story, as evocative as the movie Love Actually and as episodic. But by introducing a song and dance approach you got a trivialisation that is the staple of moon and June, Singing In The Rain type shows.
In Act I the stage changes to song and dance mixed with sketch type Fast Show routines diluted the contemporary mes- sage and even the bad guys and girls were beneath it all, good people – In The Future When All’s Well.
However, in Act II a more edgy darker story emerged but drunks were good drunks addicts didn’t OD and people agreed to begin again, give it another go, another lash as it were. Once again, the individual work of the ten person cast was impressive.
Director and writer John Morton played a pivotal role as easy-going tattoos Tommy but maybe this was a dance too far. Amy Dunne was a wonderful contradiction as the librarian who swore a lot. Ken McGuire was Dave the unemployed, remorseful drunk and he made the most of his appearances. David Thompson becomes characters and I loved his emigrating carpenter whose hands were always in bandages. He was the accident that kept on happening. Suzanne O’Brien was luminous as the ditsy Daffney Molloy was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz but there was no Yellow Brick Road in Kilkenny. However, it was Annette O’Shea as Clare the nurse who went and came back that brought a quality to an amazing place. I felt the standing ovation was particularly for her and a theatre company who make new theatre, obviously.
By Darragh Byrne
From the April 27th edition of The Kilkenny Reporter.
Devious follow the success of Scratcher with the very different but equally as striking Shifting. The second part of their ‘In The Future When All’s Well’ trilogy in their Arts Office residency, this is about teenagers adrift in our modern abyss and kissing each other to make up the gaps in between.
The structure of the play is of an 18th birthday party where a bunch of expectant and slightly drunken girls wait for the lads to arrive and most importantly a cool band who are on their way down from Dublin.
In the second act all the secrets and lies come forward as the party goers are even more inebriated and there is the violent arrival of a third party with a hurley. To pass the time there is banter, casseroles and shifting: lots of shifting.
Written for the first time by a new writer who isn’t established, Devious have taken a gamble on a young playwright not yet out of his teenage years. John Kennedy has repaid this gamble with a fine piece of writing which is very tense and funny but equally not afraid to handle dark matters. Showing a huge maturity of approach while keeping an ear for his age group’s turn of phrase, this never feels forced or gauche.
John Morton, Ken McGuire and Angela Barrett must all take a bow for helping this young cast onto a larger stage. All veterans of youth theatre, this massive leap to a professional environment is made seamless by the quality of the blocking and their superb performances.
Peter O’Connor is the confused heart of the play, annoyed that his friends have left him behind. Alan Doyle is incredible as the boy trying to grow up to quickly at all costs and John Kennedy himself delivers a lovely turn as someone caught between romance and his hormones.
The girls too are uniformly excellent – Alex Christle is the American birthday girl who is struggling with her past, Aoibhín Murphy the Spar worker who will do anything to escape Kilkenny while Ruth Phelan who manages the tricky thing of making a drunk party girl flesh.
Special mention must however go to two character parts who stole the show – Connie Walsh was brilliant as the Sylvia Plath wannabe, while Colin O’Brien was a revelation as the Darina Allen obsessed chav.
Now this party is over it is sad that there isn’t a place for these superb actors to hone their craft, as for the next generation of young thespians locally there is only pantomime and musicals. Devious have proven two things with this play – that there is a hunger as well as a need for this kind of theatre that reflects teenager’s lives without condescending to them. John Hughes himself – that great chronicler of teen life, would have walked out of this play punching the air to the tune of ‘Don’t You Forget About Me!’
The following review appeared in The Kilkenny People on Wednesday April 27th 2011.
By Tess Felder
Published in Wednesday 27 April 2011 edition of The Kilkenny People
Devious Theatre Company: The Next Generation arrived with a bang last week.
Presenting Shifting, with a new cast including new writer John Kennedy, their sharp, highly comedic performances met with standing ovations on opening night and throughout the week.
Directed by John Morton, it’s the company’s second of three plays to be staged in the Arts Office as part of their six-month residency. The play tells the story of the lovely teenage Amy (Alex Christle), whose 18th birthday party is a celebrated success, until it all goes horribly wrong.
A sort of Dazed and Confused for the current Kilkenny generation, it’s full of teenage crushes, laughter and a few tears, and even a Matthew McConaughey-older-brother-interloper type in the form of a braided-hair, rough Englishman David Thompson. (A Devious play just wouldn’t be the same without him, would it?) Being written and performed in Kilkenny, there were also added laughs for local references such as being kicked out of certain venues for being underage.
With a cast of 13, there were plenty of diverse and well-shaped characters to love, or to love to hate – the latter honour going to an outstanding and hilariously unpredictable Colin O’Brien as party-crasher Mark.
The playwright himself was on the mark as Jamie, the birthday girl’s boyfriend with one thing on his mind: her virginity; and Peter O’Connor as his best friend Jim captured the confusion of a teenager not sure which girl to ‘shift’, not sure what to do with his life, and whether to grow up or to stick around playing Guitar Hero for another year. And your heart had to go out to Connie Walsh’s Eimear, the lovably sweet, socially awkward, Sylvia Plath-devoted poet whose heart was destined to be broken as the night wore on.
There are so many clichés about young people being the hope of the future etc, etc, etc. In this case, it’s deviously true.