The Lir may have only started releasing students into the wild world of Dublin theatre three years ago, but it feels as though it’s had a huge impact on the Fringe theatre landscape. The actors, playwrights and directors who train there almost always hit the ground running and bring out exciting new work. We couldn’t have enjoyed shows like The Windstealers last year, or Glowworm this year. As a nurturer of new talent, The Lir has made a huge mark on the Dublin Fringe. So no wonder the Fringe is including one of the MFA showcases as part of the festival!
Scripted, the showcase of The Lir’s MFA Playwriting graduates, is a straightforward affair; you get a reading of the first 20 minutes of each play, performed by a strong cast and directed by David Horan. Presenting the plays as readings is a brilliant chance to hear the music of a play and see it in its barest, rawest form. No set, no extra dressing, it puts the text front and centre, showcasing its strengths, and (ideally) making you want to see it fleshed out and done justice.
The graduating class of 2016 has some strong talent. Erica Murray’s offering, Nightingale, follows the patients and nurses of a psychiatric ward facing cutbacks. Murray has a knack for humorous dialogue, and the last scene we see – a veteran nurse being laid off by her supervisor – is acidly funny. California by Carissa Meagher follows a deeply unhappy American family; the absent father is running for governor, the elder sister is hiding out in her little sister’s room, the mother is dealing with insomnia and loneliness. It’s a solid, blackly comic drama, with dark secrets thrown out abruptly and casually to hilarious effect, and the extract ends at an interesting point. Sarah by Michael Marshall is the most absurd of the three pieces, involving strange, almost supernatural figures arguing about a mysterious contract over the comatose body of a girl in a hospital. Again, it ends just when we’re about to get clued in to what they’re talking about. As proofs of concepts, as tasters of what’s-to-come, both for the plays and the playwrights, these three extracts prove this graduating year is one to watch.