Monica Insinga, 2nd September 2012
The highly acclaimed WillFredd theatre company returns to Project Arts Centre with Care, a transformative piece about not just death, but also life in a hospice. After their first two award-winning productions, Follow and Farm, Sophie Motley and Sarah Jane Shiels’s group once again pushes the boundaries of contemporary Irish theatre scene with yet another ethically challenging play. However, as stated by Motley during the post-show discussion, their focus was never on any particular hospice patient; instead, the story is told from the staff’s point of view, so this show is really “about the people who add life to days if not days to life” (programme).
Working closely with the staff of St. Francis Hospice, WillFredd challenges the stereotypical notion of the hospice as a place where you go to die, embracing the idea that life can be valued especially in a place where you are surrounded by death. While Care is not a documentary, it is nonetheless forged by the company’s experience with “daily Hospice life,” (venue website blurb) including the fictional patient, Anne, created by a doctor at St. Francis to help WillFredd devise the show.
Anne (the only fictionally named character), played by a mannequin on whose surface or skin her medical history can be written, “is not real, but her story is close enough to being real to create a meaningful character” (programme note). Anne is at the centre of the story told by the great performing ensemble, which in WillFredd’s trademark style blends words and music, dance and movement. The cast, composed by stellar actors Eleanor Methven, Sonya Kelly and Shane O’Reilly, and great musician Seán Mac Erlaine (the second musician and sound designer Jack Cawley was unfortunately absent from last night’s show), works in perfect harmony between one another, resulting in performances that stood out in the crowd, as well as an authentic impression of camaraderie.
However, the team spirit highlighted by the performers could not have been achieved without the majestic behind-the-scene work of Motley, Shiels (Lighting/Set Design), Emma O’Kane (Choreography), Dan Colley (Dramaturg) and Margarita Corscadden (Stage Manager) to name but a few. Together they have created a show that will resonate for a long time for the way they approached such a sensitive issue with humour and a caring touch that never slips into stale sympathy or sentimentality.
A truly significant production for years to come, its only lack for me was that it kept me wanting for more.