Review: Temptress

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.

Speckintime and High Seas productions present this instantly atmospheric new play by Philip St John at The New Theatre. Before the story even begins the scene is set for otherworldly activity as the audience enter into a hazy theatre.  Here the stage is impressively turned into an old country house parlour, with years of layered wallpaper peeling away from the walls and a sense of dishevelment emanating from every prop. This is the home of Noel (Matthew O’Brien) a wealthy and wiry lad who, like any addict, is waiting for his next fix yet simultaneously wants to be free from it. Noel doesn’t crave a substance however; he craves the temptress who calls when darkness falls.  Pete (Paul Kealyn) arrives from the dubious Janus Foundation is order to help Noel see the err of his ways and help him overcome his belief in the temptress. Pete sets about trying to convince Noel that she is just a figment of his imagination.  As the two men challenge each other’s beliefs regarding the temptress it becomes clear that Pete’s intentions aren’t wholly altruistic and Noel might not be imagining the whole thing.

Described as a modern ghost story Temptress is in no way conventional. It is arguably an inverted tale of the supernatural, where the living seek to possess the dead rather than run from them. Following on from this, there is no sense horror or fright in this quirky tale; rather it is a dark comedy that explores a hidden world within our own.  St John’s spunky dialogue, especially that of Pete, provides ample laughs throughout as well as giving pause for thought on some of the more serious aspects of the story. The marriage of comedy and the supernatural often results in slapstick or farce, thankfully this is not the case in Temptressdue to St John’s sturdy script and an excellent production team. The atmospheric set of a ramshackled house in Wicklow is perfectly executed by Lisa Krugel’s design and evokes a true sense of place. In a two-hander piece each actor is only as good his co-star, here O’Brien and Kealyn are undoubtedly in good company.  Kealyn gets most of the obviously funny lines while O’Brien is more dead-pan in his approach. An odd couple of sorts this pair works well together.

Borne out of isolation, whether literal or emotional, Temptress is a dark comic tale that explores the limits people will go in order to find happiness, or at least what their interpretation of happiness is. Regardless of the time of year, this 70 minute piece is an enthralling and fun way to spend an evening. Don’t expect to be scared; do expect strong language and sexual references. An interesting tale of otherworldly temptation awaits.

Writer: Philip St John

Director: Matthew Ralli

Runs until 7th November 2015 at The New Theatre, Dublin

Image contributed by The New Theatre

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