The Rooftops of Paris fell far short of my expectations.

The story lacked direction or drama, the characters lacked integrity or realism and the set was selected lazily constructed

Harshest criticism must go to the actual written piece itself. The work, which considers young love and dreams of financial independence within the looming arrival of the Irish housing crash, is riddled with lazy characterisation and a complete mish-mash of styles. Much of the drama takes place within the confines of a pub and a young couple’s newly purchased house. To say drama, however, is somewhat of an overstatement. Playwright and director Ciarán MacArtain fails to grasp that a play channelling themes of Realist theatre, or the kitchen sink drama, must include dramatic action in some form or another. Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, for example, is a play focused on dialogue and inference, where little explicit ‘drama’ occurs yet a huge amount is still going on. The Rooftops of Paris presents us with the ordinary story of two ordinary young people. The writer fails to realise, however, that telling an ordinary story does not always produce a play of interest. Ordinariness must be married with insightful prose or relatability if it is to rouse an audience.

The play is riddled with plot holes. The protagonist goes from confident young man to distraught alcoholic within the confines of less than five months. Yet he still finds moments throughout this busy schedule of working, drinking, and moaning to read complex novels by James Joyce and poetry by Yeats – even though he lacks the time to sit down and talk with his wife. All the while, a mysteriously intelligent barman with a knack for linguistics seems to notice the young man’s read Dubliners just from the newly found timbre of his voice. The plot, or lack of, culminates in a baffling final speech from our lead protagonist. Not baffling because it is delivered poorly from the actor, but because, much like everything in this play, it leaves you wondering "What was that about?!"

The production was not without its redeeming factors. At some points, the leads, Daithi O'Donnell and Niamh Kavanagh, play with astute subtlety two young people who are clearly in love lack a true familiarity, a tenderness touched with awkwardness. Yet some seriously misjudged pottering around the stage and moving of furniture from Kavanagh detracted from her performance somewhat. Lochlainn McKenna gave a good performance as the barman, even if there were flaws in his written character.

In conclusion, the play ran somewhat like a school production. The story lacked direction or drama, the characters lacked integrity or realism and the set was selected lazily constructed. The show may be free, but I wouldn’t recommend it. 

Reviews by Duncan Grindall

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The Blurb

A contemporary Irish play concerning newlyweds Charlie and Cara Barry. They've just bought a house, she's pregnant, he's a writer working in a bank, and the recession looms. What is lost and gained? Follow their journey.