TBC Theatre is a new company that began with their production of ‘Loveplay’ by Moira Buffini in July 2014, and since then have earned positive reviews and high star ratings for the majority of their shows.
Upon entering the theatre, I was immediately greeted with a realistic looking, grungy apartment living space. Before the show even started, the black and white colour scheme gave me an idea of what I would be in for – the set design and simple lighting contributing effectively towards the initial creation of a story. The great thing about the Q44 theatre is how intimate the space is, you’re on the same level as the actors, and you’re so close that you feel a part of the show. This worked particularly well for this play.
“Made in China” By Mark O’Rowe is a play set in the 1996 Ireland underworld. It follows the decisions of Paddy, the less than intelligent, yet good-natured, friend of Hughie whom he visits planning to watch Kung Fu movies. These plans are soon disregarded when local gang leader, Kilby, shows up. Set in Dublin, the show follows a winding path through a hidden underworld of dark comedy, violence, crime, loyalty and family values.
Damien Harrison is first and foremost what gave this play its charm. His portrayal of Paddy was simply unfaultable. He was understandable despite the thick accent, his expressions and actions were comical yet believable, and his portrayal of the character enabled the audience to relate and fall in love with him. While the other actors where also great, Damien was outstanding in this piece, enhanced by how well the character of Paddy was written.
Vaughn Rae, while fantastic, was the most difficult to understand through the Irish accent, and this distracted from following the story in act I. This improved in act II. Despite this, his serious interpretation of Hughie created a necessary and well developed contrast to the comedy of the two others.
Stu Jeanfield was great. His accent was understandable and his character portrayal believable.
The three actors worked together in an almost perfect harmony that was beautiful and convincing. Exceptionally impressive was the back and forth between them, how you could physically see the actors listening to one another as their characters, giving answers thought, yet still talking back and forth at a pace hard to keep up with. This kept the audience engaged and entertained throughout the entire piece, and made us feel a part of the world. One of the best displays of teamwork I have seen.
The direction and stage management of the piece were seamless. The production was so naturally directed that I didn’t even think about it, nothing diverted my attention from what was going on in the story. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the sound. While the rain sound effect that played throughout the duration of the play was at a perfect volume, many cues where late or completely missed. One particular time was when the kettle boiled, and Hughie said ‘There it is now’ as if they could both hear it, but the audience could not. In addition, there was something about the costumes in act I that didn’t quite work aesthetically.
I’m not sure what it was, perhaps a colour clash, but it created an unnecessary distraction. This was amended in act II when they changed into business suits, the black and white colouring adding to the crime theme of the set.
While, for the most part, the lighting created a realistic living room light effect, at the end during the violent scenes, lightning flashed behind the window and strobe lights enhanced the fighting. I loved this, but the strobe effect was only used twice. There were a few fight scenes where it was obvious that the blow didn’t actually connect – using more of the strobe during the fights would have hidden this a little better. On that note, however, the stage fighting was remarkable.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show. I highly recommend it, however, with the attached warning that it does include violence in act II, inappropriate (but hilarious) jokes throughout, dark humour and coarse language. It’s definitely worth going to see these three brilliant actors in action!