A modern retelling of a theatrical classic, James McNulty has given a unique twist to a play that is already ingrained in naturalist hearts. Written by Mamet, in the mid-70s, A Life in the Theatre’ brought something completely new to the theatre -The Theatre! It brought The Actor to the stage, transforming the torture of performance into a subject matter.
The play focuses around the relationship between two men, one young and one old, and their love of acting. It forces performance to the forefront and strips away any crutches one may rely on in epic theatre. Sean Doyle and Ben Waddell are billed to alternate between the characters of Robert and John each night, bringing a new experience to the audience depending on which night you attend. On the evening of my attendance, Doyle played the role of Robert and Waddell of John. Both executed their parts well; even though I could see the greying powder in Doyle’s hair, I never for a second paid doubted that this was an old man before my eyes. In fact, their performances were nothing short of stellar, creating a chemistry which was hilarious, touching and at times, toxic. Direction by McNulty truly emphasised the body and how two people can become one when constantly being merged together throughout their careers. Performers depend on each for their livelihood. Despite their true feelings for one another behind the scenes, they must offer their utmost trust and devotion for the sake of art.
Keith Thompsons set design was Mamet’s typically minimalist style and served the plot well, allowing for the actors to use just enough props, but no so much that the audience gets a free pass in not using their imagination. The same can be said for Maggie Donovan and Gill Lambert, who designed the lighting and costumes respectfully; just the right amount of dazzle, whilst quietly omitting the razzle. With this being Bobby Byrnes production debut in the “real world” outside of university, he wastes no time in showing Irish audiences what he can do. The interpretation of the play was funny, shocking and hit all of the right marks!