Here at writing.ie we love new writing for theatre. Sure, it’s great to see a great grandfather play by a long-dead great writer that has stood the test of time and times, but it’s also crucial to develop, and produce, new work and new writers. Where else will the grandfather plays of the future come from?
One new play, currently running at the Teachers’ Club on Parnell Square, is Imagining Liam by David Scott. David is a writer, director and teacher of acting (details of his training programme can be found at www.davidscott.ie). Certainly, his teaching skills must be pretty impressive, based on the performances on-stage which were excellent without exception, each actor being a graduate of Scott’s teaching programme. The particular stand-out was Eoin O’Sullivan in the role of Steve. With only a hint to the audience of how Steve has spent his last couple of years, O’Sullivan manages to weight his every line with the burden of what came before – his struggle seemed to simmer just under every delivery where it belonged. Because this is not ostensibly Steve’s story. It is Robert’s; the thirty-year-old who has – unfairly in his view – been sent down for a drink driving incident which resulted in the death of young boy.
While it’s clear that David Scott is able to teach acting, his writing abilities clearly aren’t too shabby either. The play, full-length with interval (a new-writing novelty nowadays) is all set in a jail cell. Normally, this would be an open invitation for a writer to instil the piece with a feeling of claustrophobia and stress, but the very cordially written warden and the seemingly spacious cell meant that rarely was the obvious tool of cabin fever used.
But that was never what this story was about anyway. The writer has stated that his aim with Imagining Liam was to “illuminate something about our perspectives of truth, justice and the ways in which we entrench ourselves in positions…”. He certainly achieved that. Overall, the dialogue was engaging, believable and entertaining. There were moments of real comedy – such that it seemed a shame that more such moments weren’t included – the writer clearly has an understanding of how to make an audience laugh with only the ordinary speech of an ordinary character. Everyone – even accountants – are funny sometimes.
There were also moments where the writing and acting colluded to obligate empathy – and even tears – from the audience, one such moment used to great effect in the closing of the first half of the play.
Certainly, there were times where the piece felt underworked. In a few passages, the first guitar lesson being one, the pace seemed to lag disappointingly, and some of the scene breaks seemed unnecessarily clunky. The writer could be accused of throwing the kitchen sink in in terms of topical news storylines, and might better have proved his point about our entrenchment by using fewer positions, although the themes were generally woven well into the flow of the piece; one exception perhaps being Robert’s long-winded speech on child abuse in the church, which simply felt shoe-horned in.
But those few awkward moments were perhaps only more glaring because of the overall lightness of touch of the writer. Imagining Liam is at times gently funny, surprisingly heart-breaking and altogether entertaining. Absolutely worth the trip into Parnell Square’s Teachers’ Club. Go see.
(c) Sheena Lambert
Sheena Lambert is a novelist and playwright from Dublin. Her new play Glanaphuca will be in rehearsed reading at The Vico, Dalkey, Co. Dublin on 9th June 2017. See https://www.facebook.com/events/1453490538005055 for more.