Settling down in the New Theatre before four immobile actors with faces painted white, one may be forgiven for dismissing this as a tired student production. You may be forgiven, but you will also be rather wrong. All Talk opens with an interrogative interview, fast-paced and impressionistic, and continues at a breakneck speed. Playwright Rachel Shearer has a real ear for dialogue, stylistically presented as it is, and observes some excellent moments of Irish conversation – with a personal favorite being a raidió interview with an under-13 hurler. The writing is a showcase of Irish colloquialisms, rural slang and urban rhythm, dissected with wordplay and poetry.
What first appears to be a variety of situational dialogues linked together becomes woven into a story of a woman’s home and work life, culminating in mental breakdown. Though the plot is loose, it ties the scenes – or, rather, conversations, together in a neater way that one may anticipate. The lighting, mainly consisting of handheld torches, is simple but effective, and reflects the snappy speech – it also shows the actors’ white faces at their most dramatic. The cast of four handle the writing remarkably well, with only the rare hint of a slip of the tongue. This play is entirely without physical action, however – it really is all talk. Shearer’s writing is certainly interesting and – in the world of contemporary Irish theatre, where a certain type of fast-delivered monologue has become nothing new – is more different than one may initially suspect.