After two interviews, pictures of guest speakers and comments by people who had already seen Tales from the Woods, the Hallowe’eny play brought by Theatre Upstairs and The Gumption Theatre Company, I thought I knew the performance inside out. How wrong was I!
I was nicely surprised from the moment I walked into the auditorium of Theatre Upstairs. Absolutely gorgeous set, designed by Theatre Upstairs very own Laura Honan, puts you into the right mood straight away. The ginger leaves covering the floor, a self-rocking chair, a spooky doll, an old-tape player… there is no place for a mistake: you are not in the middle of rainy Dublin anymore. This is the dark, mysterious, dangerous for some, liberating for others Woods. The light and the sound effects howling somewhere in the background just add to the intimate atmosphere of stepping on the unknown path, where there is not a single light at the end.
The play starts with a very soothing and comforting voice of a grandmother (spoken by Irene Shiels) who is telling bedtime stories to her little granddaughter:
Chapter I: “The ballad of Ginny Fogarty”, written by Kate Gilmore and directed by Karl Shiels. This piece is based on the song “The River Saile”, which is a very obscure tune, telling not such a happy story of a woman who killed her baby. The mini-play features three girls: Eilís Carey, Marnie Mccleane-Fay and India Mullen, who are playing truth or dare. And, as it happens, in the best traditions of an old haunted house horror films, one of the girls is being dared to knock on the door of an abandoned house where Ginny Fogarty once used to live. No need to say that nothing good comes out of this idea.
The piece features an absolutely beautiful and tragically touching interpretation of the song performed by Kate Gilmore.
Chapter II: “The beast in the woods”, written by Gary Duggan and directed by Karl Shiels. This “Little Red Riding-Hood” type of story that marries the modern world with the old prejudice. Are things always what they seem? The woods is indeed a very dark place… it’s probably the only place, where you’d rather meet a lonely male stranger than a small little girl.
This full of symbolism mini-play features India Mullen, who gives an extraordinary performance as The Girl, and the voice of Gary Duggan.
Chapter III: “The children played at slaughtering” is a mini-play developed by Karl Shiels and The Gumption Theatre Company.
The third and last piece is the darkest one. Rayne (played by Shane O’Regan) and Root (played by Dave Rowe) are two brothers from a small village, who decide to play at slaughtering one day. Naive (or maybe not so much?) one of them takes the role of the butcher upon himself, the second one plays his assistant, the third, a younger boy, is playing the pig. When the two brothers finally reach the pig, they kill him. But shall the young brothers be punished?
This grim story of lost innocence and justice also features Marnie Mccleane-Fay, who brilliantly plays the silent Plague Doctor.
This spooky and very atmospheric production is a perfect proof of how many levels a theatre can work on. Such a beautiful and strong interpretation of every single character by The Gumption Theatre Company brought up the creepiest in each one of the three mini-plays and made you feel your hair standing up on the back of your neck. The effect is even bigger when you realise that you are part of the show and in front of you are real people.
Theatre Upstairs is a kind of house you would want to knock on the door of on Hallowe’en for they have a whole hand full of treats for you!
Tales from the Woods runs until November 7th with two performances on the last day! Would you want to wait another year to see something that great and that scary? Of course, not! Book your tickets here: http://www.theatreupstairs.ie/tales-from-the-woods