Review: Peruvian Voodoo

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

Hot on the heels of Lee Coffey’s previous success with Leper + Chip, Bitter Like A Lemon Productions and Theatre Upstairs present Coffey’s latest theatre piece, the evocatively named Peruvian Voodoo. Spanning a single day in contemporary Dublin Peruvian Voodoo brings together three men who each tell their version of the day’s events, none of them knowing that their paths have crossed in round-about ways.

In the first of three quick-fire monologues, O’ Brien (Laurence Falconer), an aspiring children’s author in an unhappy marriage, regales the audience with his version of the day. Here the seeds are sown for the rest of the story. With perfect timing the actors move from one monologue to the next, following on seamlessly. The next character to come to life is Murphy (Finbarr Doyle), a homeless recovering drug user. As he speaks some of the connections between the men’s stories become clear, following through to the final monologue where the audience meets Behan (Kevin C. Olohan), who has been alluded to by the previous characters and is even less appealing in the flesh. All three actors ably play their roles.

The stage at Theatre Upstairs is simply set out with a wall of steel kegs, in which there is space for each actor to sit, allowing two actors to repose while the third is speaking.  Lighting changes indicate the effects of an illicit drug, known as Peruvian Voodoo, kicking in which sends each man into a state of remembrance. These periods are heightened in intensity as the two non-speaking actors breathe in a strained agonal manner; almost a death rattle. A reversal of lighting changes brings the speaking actor back to the ongoing story, which is subsequently followed with the beginning of a new monologue.

The story moves at a furious pace and it is easy to become momentarily lost in the plot. Given that Peruvian Voodoo is generally very well put together, there is a sense of expectation that the interwoven stories will finally come together in a meaningful manner; this does not happen. The stories are interconnected but do not really go any further than that. Whilst it is a well-orchestrated piece of theatre, there is a feeling of incompleteness to it. However, this is countered by some great one-liners and very good performances throughout, if a bit deafening at times. With strictly adult themes, there is plenty of humour in each monologue, laughing at and with the characters portrayed.

For just over 60 minutes of theatre Peruvian Voodoo packs plenty of testosterone filled story onto the stage of the gem that is Theatre Upstairs. Fast-paced and funny, as well as tragic, this is an entertaining portrayal of a tough, crazy day in a cold and cruel city.

Runs until May 30th 2015 at Theatre Upstairs, Dublin.

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