Jake O’Brien is captivated by a dramatic oasis in the heart of the city
On an early October evening, mere minutes after the sun has set over Dublin, a peculiar event begins at Ionad na Phiarsaigh on Pearse Street. Buck Jones and the Body Snatchers, a restaged Irish production from last year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, takes place in this time warped building across a multitude of fantastically Georgian rooms. Indeed, rooms they are. This, after all, is a house; nothing more, nothing less. The building has been assimilated by the theatre movement to hold such events as Bodysnatchers and it does it incredibly well.
The play concerns the efforts of Buck Jones (Paul Meade), a well-to-do buffoon that unwittingly clings to life as part of the Dublin aristocracy while badly attempting to bring notorious grave robber and highwayman Larry Clinch (also Paul Meade) to his own personal justice. Ulterior motives are to be had though. Larry Clinch is the only soul alive that knows the whereabouts of Jones’s bastard child who he had with an old mistress. However, the plot thickens as we find out that she is dead; alas, she was gunned down by none other than Jones’ best friend from across the Irish Sea, Charlie Toland (Denis Foley). Betwixt and between all of this choreographed insanity are Buck’s wife, Elvira (Roisin Gribbin), and her French maid, Marietta (Gene Rooney).
It must be stated here though, that to continue with any semblance of plot summary would be an utterly futile act. The story is marvellously detailed with a script that lends both depth and satire to the magical performances on stage. As an audience, we were lead around the house and its rear exterior by the cemetery watchmen Gobbet, mesmerizingly played by Beckett veteran Barry McGovern.
Not to be tied down to only one interesting dramaturgical twist, it comes to pass that all of the actors double as their thematic opposite. While Buck Jones is naïve, bumbling and dreadfully conceited, his contrasted counterpart, Clinch, is sincerely motivated, focused and deceptively honourable. Nevertheless, this is but a tiny example of what a relatively small ensemble cast can produce through an astoundingly fast-paced piece.
In retrospect however, the real success of the piece is in the simplicity with which they distract the audience so that one would never think that there was a difference in the actor-character ratio.
All aspects considered though, Bodysnatchers reminds this writer a little too much of Oscar Wilde’s glorious The Importance of Being Earnest. The site specific tone of farce mixed with the general absurdity of the on-stage personalities unfortunately allows the audience’s mind to drift and come to the conclusion that we are watching a lesser representation of Wilde’s legendary play.
Furthermore, while the audience are lead, like elephants through the jungle, around the set/house/stage it becomes curious to assume that we are being subjected to an unintentional aspect of the Theatre of Cruelty.
Thus, on a late evening in early October, mere minutes before Burger King becomes the home of drunks and degenerates, a peculiar thing has happened and one cannot help but shake the intelligence, energy, and undeniable atmosphere that violently explodes from Buck Jones and the Body Snatchers.