Review: Little Gem | Civic Theatre
Words: Lauren O'Toole
Little Gem by Elaine Murphy
Director Paul Meade
Cast Genevieve Hulme-Beaman, Anita Reeves, Neili Conroy
Guna Nua’s Little Gem has caused quite the stir since it premiered at the Dublin Fringe in 2008. Off to a flying start by picking up the festival award for best female performance (an accolade shared by the cast of three) it went on to impress audiences and judging panels alike in the Edinburgh Fringe 2009. Having already been well received in New York and with a two month tour of Australia on the cards for later this year this is less of a "Little Gem"and more like the little engine that could. Currently being staged at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght it's a concern that the play could falter under the weight of such overwhelming success. Thankfully the cast on Thursday evening showed no sign of faltering and carefully wove a story of life, love, disappointments and the keystone of all this - family.
The concept is simple - three generations of a family philosophising through a series of monologues on the trials and tribulations of existence. It makes it all the more entertaining when the trials and tribulations in question include an elderly lady perusing Ann Summers for a vibrator, sweaty salsa nights for the middle aged and that age old problem of how exactly does one dance to eighties music?
The cast has had an overhaul since the play debuted three years ago with Anita Reeves the sole survivor from the original line up in the role of Kay, the sexually frustrated matriarch of the family. Kay is struggling to come to terms with life after her husband Gem suffers a stroke leaving him much altered. But it's not just her husband's health that has taken a blow - her sex life also suffers terribly as a result which eventually leads her to taking the matters into own hands. Reeves delivers the comedy with perfect Dublin intonation and a wonderfully mischievous gleam in her eye but unfortunately gallops through the more tender moments at a frightening pace. It is possible that this is a result of the actress being a little too familiar with the script, but whatever the reason it is unfortunate as there is a real opportunity here for the sentiment in Elaine Murphy's writing to peep its head through the laughs.
Genevieve Hulme-Beaman is Amber, the bright eyed but filthy mouthed 19 year-old who discovers she is pregnant one morning when her standard hangover feels more brutal than usual. Hulme-Beaman is endearing in the part despite her problematic accent which is rather contrived and does not stand up alongside the older actresses.
Neili Conroy is the strongest of the three, playing uptight Lorraine with the perfect balance of insecurity and prickliness that comes with a lifetime of hell from her estranged drug addict husband. With her daughter Amber all grown up and shaken by her father’s sudden illness, Lorraine decides its time to start again with a healthy mix of therapy and salsa dancing.
While Kay, Lorraine and Amber's actions seem determined by the men in their lives – with the elderly Gem and Amber's baby boy operating as bookends – it is their strength as a trio that is the real story here. The script is bountiful with Dublin witticisms and as the three women keep laughing through the obstacles life throws at them, the audience laughs heartily alongside them.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Tuesday 15th February 2011 | Theatre
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