This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
Writer: Nadine Flynn
Director: Lee Wilson
Jay is a young Dubliner, living with his mother and siblings in an overcrowded flat in the city. Much to Jay’s objection his grandfather has recently been shipped off to a nursing home to give the family a bit more space, leaving Jay as the eldest man in the family home. Jay feels he needs to step up to the plate and start to get his life in order but looking around him, his prospects are few. Behind the street credibility he is an unsure and somewhat naive young man, trying to figure out his role in the family and the world in general. His younger brother Sammy has a passion for music and while it’s a positive distraction from life in the flats it’s unlikely to ever amount to much. Their sister, Siobhan, is equally distracted with her first proper boyfriend, Deco, a garda-in-training. Deco’s arrival with much fanfare from matriarch Yvonne is short lived as he doesn’t turn out to be the knight in shining armour they hoped he would be.
Nadine Flynn’s Running With Dinosaurs generally works well onstage. It is fresh and modern while also dealing with the age old issue of what make a house, or in this case a flat, a home. The family unit is explored and its fragility is laid bare in this energetic, kitchen sink drama. While the drama is intense, there is plenty of humour too, mostly from the family dynamics between the siblings and their mother, Yvonne (Aislinn Ní Uallacháin). In particular Siobhan (Eimear Keating) provides much of the laughs through her speech and demeanour, while the sparring brothers Jay (Daniel Monaghan) and Sammy (Wesley Doyle) hide their brotherly love beneath snide remarks and insults.
Under the direction of Lee Wilson this fast paced drama flows well and the momentum builds throughout its 90 minute running time. Scene changes interweave and overlap with the action allowing the story to progress at all times. This technique works very well, as does the use of concurrent scenes.
A stylized monochromatic set (Mary Sheehan) with clean lines and geometric shapes gives Running With Dinosaurs a modern and realistic feel. This is complemented by the tone and style of Bill Woodland’s sound and lighting design, which at times feels aggressively apt given the story unfolding on stage.
Running With Dinosaurs is high octane drama and offers an exciting and enjoyable piece of theatre. The story doesn’t lag at any stage which is testament to the writing and production but there is a lot, perhaps too much, to take in. While some elements of the story are questionable the characterisation of a modern inner city family struggling to find its way is very much on point. Flynn deals with the real life issues that are inescapable in the world we live in and does so without over sentimentalising them. Life is tough; deal with it.
Runs until 29 April 2017 | Image: Contributed