Review: Batshit | Project Arts Centre
Words: Lauren O'Toole - Theatre Writer
Dublin Youth Theatre Ensemble
Directed by Gary Keegan
Too often we write off youth as being synonymous with inexperienced, juvenile or, in terms of theatre - amateur. I have to admit that I held similar reservations about Dublin Youth Theatre's Batshit which runs until the 5th of February in the Project Arts Centre.
Using Georg Buchner's play Woyzeck, in which a German soldier murders his wife in a fit of madness, as a catalyst, Batshit attempts to get beneath the allusive subject of mental illness. The audience is greeted by a young woman who introduces herself as "a girl who has been stabbed", a fact which is also emblazoned across her t-shirt. The play proceeds as a deconstruction of the hours, days and years before the event in an attempt to understand what made her killer, her former boyfriend, snap. Throughout the play the ensemble cast move through a variety of characters - the switches indicated by the changes of t-shirt; A Dead Girl, His Buddy, A Nurse and, the wonderfully weird, Son Correspondante Francaise. There is a self conscious reluctance to fully assume concrete characters throughout Batshit - the cast preferring instead to try them on temporarily as they do the t-shirts.
The actors never attempt to realistically convey the story of the boyfriend murdering his girlfriend; rather they are giving us their personal opinion on the genesis of mental breakdown. And this is the one element that I find problematic in Batshit - the approach to mental illness is somewhat one dimensional. It’s a little too easy to suggest that "violent computer games and nasty stuff on the Internet" are responsible for homicidal rage. While there are these small chinks of weakness in the script it is largely sensitive, humorous and current without resorting to lavishly applying pop culture references to get the audience on-side.
The director (Gary Keegan) creates some fantastic images with his talented cast – a scene in which they recreate the frustration of insomnia being particularly memorable. The actors don pillows over their heads, yell intermittently and beat the living daylights out of a feather pillow, all to the soundtrack of an appropriately angry tune. Music is used to great effect in the piece with a keyboard present on stage and played hauntingly by one of the cast. The inclusion of multi-media is also well executed and never comes across as gimmicky, rather operating to enhance the impact of the play – especially effective moments being those when A Dead Girl speaks through a carefully placed microphone from her butchered position lying spread-eagled across the stage.
The ensemble display great solidarity as a group and manage to tackle the difficult subject matter with a sensitivity and maturity that belies their youth. Perhaps it is through such dynamic theatre being made by Dublin Youth Theatre that we can start to rethink the preconceptions we may have and when faced with "youth" instead of immediately jumping to "inexperienced" think innovative, energetic and fresh.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 3rd February 2011 | Theatre
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