Cell

Ailís Ní Ríain
24:7 Theatre Festival
Pure, The Printworks, Manchester
(2009)

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Amongst several plays that are set in prison cells, the one named Cell by Irish writer and composer Ailís Ní Ríain is set in a young man's bedroom.

Hickey has acute social withdrawal syndrome and has barricaded himself into his bedroom at his parents' house for the last two years. He speaks passionately with his alter-ego Mickey, who argues against him – particularly when he is calling people who have nothing better to do but post ill-informed opinions on the Internet message boards where he spends a lot of his own time – but when his mother comes up with his meals or to take away his waste products he freezes and won't speak until she has gone away.

Central to this production is a real tour-de-force of a performance from Gareth Cassidy as Hickey, who gets a lot of humour out of the piece but doesn't spare the pathos or the anger of the character. Ben Worth doesn't get a great deal to do as Mickey and spends most of the time standing around which raises a question about whether the play could be rewritten more effectively to either utilise this character a lot more or, even better, to keep him in Hickey's imagination and not show him at all.

Jane Hogarth is very good in her few appearances as Mammy, and her character does work as an occasional break from what is basically a a monologue from Hickey. The stalemate situation is set up so well, however, that it is difficult to see a convincing ending to the play that would change anything or anyone, and the ending as written seems underwritten and tagged on.

This is a very strong entry to the festival with lots of great humour carried by a superb central performance from Cassidy.

Reviewer: David Chadderton