This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
In an Orwellian and altered reality version of Dublin, Joe (Michael Mullen) finds that the hum-drum of daily life is grinding him down. He wakes up, has breakfast, gets the bus to work, spends all day at his keyboard, has a mediocre social life, goes to bed, and then does it all again. Every day. Having been identified as stressed by the body scanning technology at his workplace, Joe is sent to Human Resources (Susan Barrett) for a chat, which doesn’t go particularity well.
On his way home from work he meets a girl named Bett (Jessie Doyle), who decides to take him home. Except that home isn’t a house. It’s a place. A new world where Joe can have a fresh start and be more than average, that is, if he wants to be. In Home Joe meets the ruling class, who try to tempt him to stay in their world with flattery and charm, while being equally cruel to Bett, who they treat as an underling. The constant party atmosphere hides their ulterior motives and Joe soon begins to suspect that something is not quite right in this strange new world.
Underdog Productions present Tingo at The Boys’ School in Smock Alley Theatre, written by Jessie Doyle and Cian O’Ceallachain. With an ensemble cast who flitter between roles, except for Mullen who is the only constant in this curious tale, there is plenty of fun and frolicking is this whimsical piece. Thematically, Tingofollows the classic tale of an unintentional adventurer in a strange land, where the hero must be transformed in order to return home a new and better person. What it adds to this formula is a surreal story line (even compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz) that is well thought-out and excellently performed by the ensemble.
The set (Ciaran O’Dwyer) mostly relies on props rather than any verifiable locations. From futuristic technology to surreal parties and bizarre trees, acceptance is key to enjoying the world portrayed in Tingo. Some of the props have a delightful arts and craft feel to them which serves to evoke a sense of childlike playfulness about them. Original music from Linda Walsh adds to the overall magic in Tingo, accentuating time and place of these two unusual worlds.
Tingo is fun and heartfelt and, despite its surreal setting, it is incredibly relatable to anyone who finds themselves stuck being average. Doyle and O’Ceallachain have constructed a dreamlike world which simply requires that the audience leave reality well and truly at the door as they enter. It is an exciting piece of new theatre from a young production company that will hopefully be an indicator of things to come. The running time of two hours (with a 15 minute interval) goes by incredibly fast, which is testament to the intriguing tale of Joe and his not so average adventure.
Writers: Jessie Doyle and Cian O’Ceallachain
Director: Cian O’Ceallachain
Runs until 6 November 2015 at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin
Image: Ciaran O’ Dwyer