An Octoroon: Thrilling remix of 19th-century Irish writer Boucicault’s play on race

You’ve got a treat up your sleeve with The Abbey’s big brash remix of this old slave melodrama by Irish writer Dion Boucicault. Contemporary American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has taken the 1859 work and transformed it into a fascinating meditation on racism as subject and melodrama as form. The play sounds dry and intellectual when described, but when experienced it is an absolute theatrical thrill, complete with naughty slaves, malicious betrayal, massive hoop skirts and a giant rabbit.

Acobs-Jenkins’ play premiered in 2014; It’s an exploration of racial portrayals on stage, but it also contains most of the original Boucicault play, complete with its melodramatic strengths and its cartoonish weaknesses. The story is about Zoe, a daughter of the now deceased master of the house, who was conceived with a white slave. Zoe is one-eighth black, hence the “octoroon” of the title. She received ‘free papers’ from her father and should therefore not be part of the security for the mortgage on the property. But there is a mistake in the papers. Everyone is in love with Zoe, and when the plantation goes bust, the vultures gather to bid for her.

Mara Allen and Leah Walker make modern fails of two “house slaves” Dido and Minnie, roles vastly expanded from the original. Maeve O’Mahony is superbly over the top as Dora, a southern belle. Patrick Martins is extremely versatile as a playwright, villain and hero; If he plays two of these roles at the same time, he has to beat himself up. Rory Nolan shines as Boucicault and Native American Wahnotee. The use of blackface, whiteface, and redface colors make their own subversive commentary.


Mara Allen as Dido and Leah Walker as Minnie in An Octoroon. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Director Anthony Simpson-Pike takes the story to its glorious extremes. There are echoes of Quentin Tarantino in the cartoonish violence and outrageous humor. A mock trial and a planned lynching in Boucicault’s original become a moment of terrifying confrontation with the idea of ​​lynching. A fantastic design by Sabine Dargent featuring fluffy cotton balls is shown off with a gruesome photographic projection. Don’t miss this great show; It’s hilarious entertainment, a glimpse into Ireland’s theatrical past and a bold and brilliant vision of the future.

Maeve Binchy’s 1950s brought to life

Circle of Friends at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin until May 14th

Draper’s daughter Benny leaves the small Irish town to study at University College Dublin. There, she and her friends Eve and Nan overcome the hurdles of young life and love, encountering companions and shaking off the nuns.

This 1990 novel by Maeve Binchy cemented the author’s reputation as a writer with an astute commercial talent, and playwright Elaine Murphy’s new stage adaptation capitalizes on the novel’s expansion into two dramatic hours, mostly successfully.

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Produced by Breda Cashe and directed by Viko Nikci, exuberance underpins the approach; The 1950s are skilfully evoked in music, mood and costumes. Designer Kate Moylan creates huge Doric columns based on the old UCD facade. Roseanna Purcell leads the cast with a dead Binchy-esque Benny. Marcus Lamb is a slimy small-town sleeve as an assistant draper; the audience has a great time hating him. Aisling Kearns turns lanky friend Eve into a beautiful fist. Jack Hickey is an engaging, handsome love interest. Perfectly cast, all supporting roles are played strikingly.

The mood of the show may be good, but Murphy’s adaptation focuses on a sobering, albeit funny, scene in Act II that delves into the Russian roulette of pregnancy risk for girls in pre-contraceptive Ireland. Much like writer Binchy, the show dresses its iron fist in a velvet glove.

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/an-octoroon-thrilling-remix-of-irish-writer-boucicaults-19th-century-play-on-race-41597008.html An Octoroon: Thrilling remix of 19th-century Irish writer Boucicault’s play on race

Fry Electronics Team

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