Tag Archives: Tom Bannerman

The Dreamer Examines His Pillow

15 Dec

‘What is sex for?’ adult Donna asks her father.

‘For making babies!’ he replies; an answer so shockingly and refreshingly obvious that it hides the very strangeness of the question.

‘What is sex for?’

What is it for?

What’s being expressed here is a powerful desire for structure, an overwhelming need for certainty. Donna is asking someone with supposed authority to tell her how the world is organized. She wants her father to say that things are this way, and not that way, or that way, or that….

John Patrick Shanley’s play is rich and thought provoking. His characters speak with a street poetry that overflows with gloriously fresh imagery. The play bristles and sparkles with the contrast between plain speaking and magical attempts to capture the unknowable.

Donna and Tommy are trying to work it out.  Should they be together or not? It would probably be easier if Tommy knew who he was and what he was responsible for. (Another strand of Shanley’s intriguing exploration of certainty.) It would also be easier if Tommy wasn’t sleeping with Donna’s younger sister.

Photo by Tom Bannerman

Photo by Tom Bannerman

Ainslie Clouston and Scott Lee give brilliant performances as the lovers, and Peter McAllum is wonderful as Donna’s father.

Tom Bannerman’s clever set brings the TAP alive.

Director Vashti Pontaks’ production is funny and deeply stimulating. (And not just because of the discussions of sex, though they’re interesting. Shanley’s vision of sex and romantic love is a controversial one. Of course, the play doesn’t really reduce desire to a mere component in biological reproduction. Indeed, to my taste, Shanley actually overstates the power and importance of sex in our lives. And yes, I know, that’s a bold claim to hide away in a set of parentheses.)

But the play is an exhilarating reminder of the danger of reducing anything to something else.

For when we rob Life of its richness, it is we who are poorer.

Veronica Kaye


The Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley

at TAP Gallery til 21st Dec


Dying For It

26 Nov

To live, it is said, we must have a purpose. And so, it follows, we must die for one. Sort of.

In Dying For It, adapted by Moira Buffini from the original play by Nikolai Erdman,  Semyon is contemplating suicide. Virtually no-one tries to save him. Instead, they try to co-opt him into dying for their own chosen cause.  

In 1920’s Russia, the idea of living for a purpose was in the zeitgeist, and not just on a pop culture level, but as a government directive. You will live for the People’s State. It is this, I suspect, that drove Erdman to write the play. And then earned him time in Siberia.

Photo by Bob Seary

Photo by Bob Seary

It’s an interesting play to choose now. How many of us feel a pressure to live for a cause? Our sad experience, if anything, (and if I can borrow a phrase) is the unbearable lightness of being. The only serious attempt to suggest we live for a purpose comes from the infantile world of advertising. 

So why the popularity of the play? After all, Buffini is not the only modern writer to adapt it. Simon Stone was at it only a few years ago.

Well, it’s certainly funny. And director Peter Talmacs makes this clever farce come alive. Johann Walraven does a brilliant job as the bewildered Semyon, and the entire cast shine with the exuberance that makes this a truly fun night. (And Tom Bannerman’s set deserves a mention. Imposing and appropriately ramshackle, it evokes the claustrophobia of the human spirit oppressed.)

Perhaps the play’s attraction is the contemporary spectre of terrorism; the tragedy, and horror, of dying for a cause when it might have been better lived for.

But there’s also the end of the play.

Stone’s take, I recall, was rather different. Semyon was left in his coffin, inadvertently forced to play dead when he was not – a poignant symbol.

The conclusion of this version is even more powerful. A killer punch. Sure, it may be an ill-judged hope that any ideology could encapsulate the wildness of Life, but this final scene is a reminder that this failure does not give us leave to run from Life.

For we are not in it alone.

It is the true People’s State.

Veronica Kaye

Dying For It

adapted by Moira Buffini, from the original play by Nikolai Erdman

New Theatre til 21 Dec



19 Sep

United we stand. Divided we stand – in an empty swimming pool, waiting to be butchered by a legend.

That’s the scenario of Enda Walsh’s play Penelope. Four men have unsuccessfully vied for the affections of Penelope and soon her long absent husband, Odysseus, will return. There will be consequences.

Walsh’s play is rich and playful. It sets competition against co-operation. Are we really capable of the latter?

Director Kate Gaul’s production is superb. The cast is top class, and they bring to life Walsh’s snappy word play.

Thomas Campbell as Burns. Photo by Kathy Luu

Thomas Campbell as Burns. Photo by Kathy Luu

There are some extraordinarily powerful speeches, which provide an effective foil to  the lighter raillery. The monologues by Nicholas Hope and Thomas Campbell alone will get me back a second time.

Gaul and designer Tom Bannerman have magically transformed the space. We are in the pool. Or is it the gladiator’s amphitheatre?

But they’re a sorry lot of gladiators. Perhaps collaboration is their only hope.

Dramatists have a vested interest in seeing hostility at the heart of human nature. It’s their ideology. With out this belief it’s hard to spin stories.

But is it true? News reports provide easy confirming evidence. But journalists are the close cousins of dramatists, and share their needs.

This play puts it out there; competition or co-operation?

It’s a fascinating question. With no answer.  Except, of course, the one we make with our own lives.

Veronica Kaye



TAP Gallery til Oct 6th