Tea Chests an Dreams: Axis Theatre
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Review by: Lauren O'Toole
Title: Tea Chests and Dreams
Venue: The Axis Ballymun
Written by: Dermot Bolger
Directed by: Mark O'Brien
Cast: Kelly Hickey, Donna Anita Nikolaisen
(Civic Theatre dates: 20-21st April)
Dermot Bolger's intergenerational documentary of a Tallaght Housing Estate goes far beyond the bricks and mortar, even beyond the homes that are formed within these houses, and reaches right into the heart of the family - specifically the mothers and daughters that are found within. On the opening night in the Axis theatre, as with every night that will follow as the production tours, Bolger's interconnecting monologues and occasional two-handers are preceded by the memoir of a woman whose own family life began in similar circumstances - the tea chests replaced by concrete blocks but the dreams very much the same. Helena Nolan's description of life as a young mother was as warm, funny and meticulously conjured as Dermot Bolger's own vignettes of new beginnings and started the play off on a level of authenticity that is, on the whole, maintained throughout.
Tea Chests and Dreams allows us a glimpse of women of various eras, class and culture embarking on the same journey - that of life in a new home. Beginning with a young 1960s couple, recently returned from ten years of exile in England the play hurtles through the decades and life stories of those who populate the ever expanding suburb of Tallaght. While we are entertained with humorous tales of inexperienced young mothers and frustrated menopausal wives, Bolger juxtaposes the laughs with the more desperate circumstances, such as the victimisation of a mother and child by at the hands of local youths.
The cast of Kelly Hickey and Donna Anita Nikolaisen depict the variety of colourful characters convincingly enough, despite Nikolaisen's difficulty at the beginning of the play with mastering some of the many accents that crop up - an issue that could hamper the audience's appreciation of her otherwise wonderful performance. Hickey shines in the more comical roles and bookends the play nicely by appearing as a young 1960s wife in the first scene and assuming the role once more in the final scene to pass on the life lessons she has gleaned in the preceding 40 years to her new neighbour, an African immigrant played by Nikolaisen. The humour of Hickey's characters is neatly balanced by Nikolaisen's skill at commanding the stage in the more serious moments - her depiction of a terrorised mother, determined to protect her child from the gang of bullies that plague them daily, is truly touching.
This play is rich with emotion, heart, history and real life and not only offers us an insight into a tapestry of women's stories but also into their relationships with each other, particularly with their daughters. Against the backdrop of a constantly changing Dublin, Tea Chests and Dreams will momentarily take you back to times you may have lived through, been born into, or merely been told about. More significant than the social history however, is that common ground that links these women and their stories together - that of family - and it is this, with the help of those hopes and dreams, that makes this play so endearing.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 16th April 2012 | Theatre
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