After another day at the National Library, I met friends for a date at the New Theatre, a black box in Temple Bar devoted to plays with a leftist political bent. The theatre is inside a bookstore, now sadly depleted, that in its glory days was filled with books extolling Marxism, Communism and Irish republican history. The story is that a devoted Communist who nonetheless managed to make a fortune somewhere underwrites the whole enterprise. I have seen several performances there, some extremely well done.
The play we saw last night was Low Level Panic, which despite attempts at updating by including iPhones and social media, remained a piece of period feminism straight out of the seventies (even though it was written in the 80s). The entire action took place in the shared bathroom of three young women obsessed with their bodies in one way or another. The bathroom scenario (we were mercifully spared the loo) allowed the women to strip down to skivvies, or nothing in one case, over and over like a bit of performance art in LA during the height of second-wave feminism’s obsession with the female body. The three women rued their fat, prissily suggested OCD-type fussiness a la Maggie Smith in A Private Function and wailed about existential questions of being and nothingness, sometimes, alas, to guitar accompaniment.
Ten men in black lurked around the edges of the set, occasionally breaking into the action but mostly witnessing. This obvious reference to the male gaze was undermined by the metrosexual look of the men, who seemed more like respectful servants than menacing presences. Three little girls with Rosetti hair appeared from time to time in a needless attempt to suggest the earlier innocence of the three women, who were already nothing if not babes in the woods, or in this case the bathroom, their strong language notwithstanding.
Good acting, though.
Afterward we went across the street to the Clarence Hotel, which is owned by U2, who bought it to restore it to its former Edwardian glory. The restoration leaves the place dark, chilly and very masculine, but we had a nice cup of tea in one of the reception rooms before heading back out into the warm Dublin night.