Written by: Rebecca Grimes and David Farrell
Directed by: Nick Lee
Performed by: Rebecca Grimes and David Fennelly
Performed: October 14th-25th @ Theatre Upstairs, Lanigan’s Bar, Eden Quay.
Mavericks, a new play by Rebecca Grimes and David Farrell, recently took over the Theatre Upstairs on Dublin’s Eden Quay. A quirky, light-hearted look at the life of an actor and the financial risks that come with the entertainment industry are dealt with in a humorous way, with the cast exemplary throughout.
The stars of the show, Rebecca Grimes (Chewie) and David Fennelly (Ben), both graduated from the Gaiety School of Acting in Temple Bar, which has names like Colin Farrell on its list of notable alumni. They are both lively and enthusiastic throughout, with the play actually beginning the moment the audience members enter the performance space. Chewie and Ben are collecting the tickets in character, a fact that certainly adds pre-play tension, until of course the audience realise what is happening. This is a very unique and important aspect to the play, and certainly adds to the realism.
The play itself is essentially two actors writing a play about two actors writing a play, and although the reference to Inception is mentioned, it is safe to say there is no confusion about the plot. The audience is kept guessing however; the “cheesy” happy-ever-after love ending to most films is joked about at different points by both Chewie and Ben, but the ultimate ending is decidedly unpredictable. Chewie and Ben are really just friends, but the themes of unrequited love and the dreaded ‘friend-zone’ inevitably come into play.
The play is the directing debut of Monaghan native Nick Lee, also a distinguished actor himself. Trinity College graduate Lee has numerous credits both on stage and screen including Love/Hate (Seasons Four and Five), the recently released Love, Rosie (based on Cecelia Ahern’s novel), and will soon be seen again opposite Gillian Anderson in series two of BBC’s The Fall.
The fact that the play was performed at the Theatre Upstairs is itself hugely significant. An independent theatre, it is described as “A home for new plays and a nationally renowned company dedicated to the support of rising talent.” Karl Shiels, another accomplished actor, is the theatre’s Artistic Director, and in 2013 he took home a special judges’ award for developing Irish theatre at the Irish Times theatre awards.
There are many reasons why Mavericks was an enjoyable and relatable night at of theatre. The acting was simply superb; Grimes and Fennelly dove into and out of different characters with sublime ease, and the moments of loudly slurping invisible drinks at an invisible bar highlight their skill and talent. Kate Moylan’s set design was simple but effective; the ‘Alley Theatre’ and ‘Burger Queen’ promotional posters in the background hint at the constant war between the desire to act and the need to have money to pay the rent. The lighting and sound too add to the atmosphere and give added impetus to the comic timing of the stars of the show. Katharine Hepburn once observed that “Acting is the perfect idiot’s profession.” And while the characters in Mavericks themselves have blatant moments of idiocy, the performances of the real-life actors portraying them is anything but.
In a nutshell: A play about art imitating life and vice versa. Chewie and Ben may be a comedy of errors pairing, but there were no errors in sight in this flawless independent production. A hugely enjoyable 50 minutes.