This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
Award winning playwright and screenwriter Eugene O’ Brien’s latest offering comes in the form of a one man piece, Just Here. This brief tale takes places in the small apartment of a loner named John in the Baggot Street area of Dublin. John (Daniel Reardon) lives alone and likes it that way. His daily routine is precise and his only vice is a fondness for the movies. Usually his only problem is his over familiar neighbour, Ursula Andrews, who is constantly trying to persuade him to join her on some excursion or other. He rather wryly points out that unfortunately she does not look anything like Ursula Andress. But John has more than Ursula to worry about today. He has received a letter from Australia and it has knocked his usual routine out of kilter. Fearing its contents, John leaves the letter unopened for a day or two, the pent up anxiety of it causing him nightmares and headaches. It transpires that John wasn’t always a loner- in fact he was married to Rita, a girl that all the guys wanted but somehow John won her over. They had a daughter, Deirdre, and whist they were happy for a while their differences, as well as a major incident, led to them eventually separating. This incident, involving Deirdre, changed the family forever and now her letter from Australia has the potential to change John’s life again.
Lacking the drama of some of O’ Brien’s earlier work, Just Here has a sedate quality from beginning to end. However, this is in keeping with the character of John and the fact that he will, at any cost, maintain the status quo of a peaceful existence without any conflict from outside sources. The story quietly moves along; even at key moments John remains apathetic, which makes it difficult to emotionally invest in the character but that is exactly how John would appear in the real world. He is someone who keeps the world at arm’s length and is happy to keep it there. Reardon portrays this very well as man who exists but isn’t necessarily living. Under the direction of Charlie Bonner, Reardon has a mostly inactive role, which reflects the indifference of the character in general. The set is basic, with an armchair being the main piece, a coffee table, and window with a venetian blind that Reardon looks through at times (perhaps a nod to Rear Window and the older films that John loves).
Just Here explores the coping mechanism that people use when faced with danger and trauma; the fight or flight response. John chooses flight, and escapes momentarily into a “movie” in his mind, where he stays still until whatever is happening has passed. For John isolation does not equate with loneliness, unlike his neighbour Ursula who goes out of her way in order to find some company. In what can seem like a sad tale at times, John is actually preserving and living his life as he wants to. Sometimes the world wants to interfere in people’s lives and it takes either courage or cowardice to ignore it.
Writer: Eugene O’Brien
Director: Charlie Bonner
Photo courtesy of Bewley’s Café Theatre
Runs until October 10th 2015