THIS YEAR’S UnFringed Festival was memorable for many reasons, but chiefly the stunning, inventive productions that showcased new writing.
Clearly standing out among these was the incredibly dark, but poetic ‘A Different Animal’, the powerful writing and performance of the chilling play - produced by Wildebeest Theatre - hugely impressing audiences and this writer alike, ensuring that playwright Meadhbh Haicéid was one to keep an eye on.
Wildebeest, a new Limerick-based theatre company founded by Priscilla Nic Chonmara, Marie Boylan, Liam Quinn and Haicéid herself, return to a local stage with the play this weekend for a three night run in the intimate surroundings of the Loft theatre venue above the Locke Bar - a startingly clever selection of venue for the unsettling, but gripping piece.
A two-hander directed by Ciarda Bytyqi-Tobin and performed by Crissy O’Donovan and Marie Boylan, A Different Animal is indeed that, a quite unique and atmospheric piece that deals with a young woman receiving the strangest of visitors in “the blue light of dusk”.
Over a bottle of wine, the uptight woman is gradually unwound and deeply affected by her odd visitor, who may not be all she seems. As the description flows: “In the growing intimacy, something darker also stirs. Are they really who they say they are? Are they even who they think they are? And what, or who, will remain when dawn steals in?”
This really is a play that needs to be seen to be comprehended, and utterly enjoyed, this writer sitting rapt until the last light shone on the piece. For a fledgling theatre company to produce such a piece is quite incredible, and owes much to the writing of Haicéid and direction of Tobin, a well known practitioner in local theatre circles due to her work with Limerick Youth Theatre, Teaspach and Amalgamotion.
Indeed, the founders of Wildebeest first met through Limerick Youth Theatre some years ago and have more recently rejoined forces owing to a shared interest in creating new work “fixed firmly in the present, looking to the future and aware of the past”. A Different Animal is just their second production.
O’Donovan deservedly won the award for Best Female Performance at the UnFringed, while Marie Boylan was also nominated in that category. The show was also nominated for Best Production and the Spirit of the Unfringed Award for writing.