Dead

Based loosely on Ibsen’s ‘When We Dead Awaken’, ‘Dead’ follows artist Pauric Fermoy back to Ireland, his pretty young wife in tow. A self-imposed exile for thirty years, after his painting ‘The Virgin Vagina’ caused widespread outrage, Fermoy returns for a retrospective and encounters more living ghosts from his past. This is a very language-driven play, and Mark Elliston’s script crackles with vitality and wit. David Verrey as the irascible Fermoy relishes the one liners and obscenely lyrical insults that litter his speech, and these are a joy for the audience too. Lead Fintan McKeown was forced to drop out just over a week ago, leaving director Verrey to take his place, and though his performance is a little exaggerated at moments and some of the lines are too carefully recalled, this relaxes as the play continues and Verrey’s Fermoy is a powerfully realised character for less than a week’s rehearsals. His young Essex wife Adele is played utterly convincingly by Sophie Austen, who brings out both the naivety and frustration of the young woman married to a cynical and self-involved old bastard. As the play continues we are introduced to characters from Fermoy’s past. Elliston transforms Ibsen’s hunter into a predatory photographer, whose quick-fire exchanges of wit and insult with Fermoy are astonishing. Michael Power gives his character just the right mixture of feral cruelty and clear-headed insight to make Adele fall for him and the audience forgive him his sins. Deirdre, Fermoy’s lost muse, is played with a mad intensity by Mary Ryder, and though her acting and commitment never wavers, her accent is patchy to say the least. The set is minimal, as is usual for a Fringe production, and though this was sufficient to create the mood of a pool-side hotel, the play could have done with a little more variation, or perhaps added detail. The music that intercuts the scenes is interesting and modern, and provides the perfect pause between the wordy scenes. This is a highly achieved piece from a talented cast and playwright that should go on to bigger theatres and larger audiences.

Reviews by Louisa-Claire Dunnigan

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The Blurb

Fringe First winner Mike Elliston, inspired by Ibsen's last work, plunges us into the rapacious world of 21st-century art in this erotically charged and savagely comic account of Irish artist Pauric Fermoy's spectacular demise.

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