You don’t always get to experience a completely new show, but this play, written by Christian O’Reilly, results in a stellar evening that delivers an evening of fascinating transformative theater leading no less it’s entertaining.
Reilly’s screenplay was inspired by the life story of Martin Naughton. Born with muscular dystrophy, he was a disability activist until his death in 2016, campaigning for the right to independent living. Young Martin (Paddy Slattery) is taken from his Connemara home to an institute in Baldoyle. There he befriends Brendan (Mark Fitzgerald), who dies young, but haunts Martin and the play with his desire to go to America. Brendan Realizes the American Dream: America is a paradise where disabled veterans have made infrastructure accessible to all.
A smoldering homage underlies the piece, creating O’Reilly and Mitzi D’Alton. The language is straightforward and challenging: the characters call themselves “crips”. Some are “puppy – unlucky elves”. There are hierarchies in the disabled community, with lots of infighting and humorous jealousy. All actors who play characters with disabilities have personal disabilities; The effect of this is to make you feel like every other performance you’ve seen is fake.
Slattery plays Martin as charismatic but anti-angelic – his world-changing ambitions sometimes blind him to other people’s humanity.
Director Raymond Keane shies away from any hint of sanctity: campaigning is a joy, a reality that often gets lost in political threads. Ger Clancy’s folding set solves all the access problems but also an eye-catching geometric installation. Sarah Jane Sheils’ versatile lighting elegantly weaves scenes together.
Sorcha Curley is an indomitable Ursula, willing to fight to be able to live independently from her boyfriend. Peter Kearns plays Dermot, who has a slight stutter because of cerebral palsy and thinks people “can put in a lot of effort” – he has many of the best laughs on the show. Kearns is also a consultant in drama and disability.
No magic potion closed on Sundays but hopefully it gets some resurgence after this Dublin Theater Festival outing. Its integrity is wrapped in skillful theatrical technique that shines like a dazzling jewel.
Civic Theatre, Tallaght, until Sunday, October 9
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/review-of-no-magic-pill-a-funny-fierce-show-about-disability-activism-42045596.html Theater review of No Magic Pill: A humorous, fierce show about disability activism