Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: HEROIN

If there were an award for sheer damn hard work, for doing your homework, for taking time with a project, for fixing it solidly into its (real world) setting, HEROIN would surely win it. And as it is, it's already won the Spirit of the Fringe award from the ABSOLUT Fringe.

HEROIN is a play about heroin and heroin users. In some respects it's also - at least in its current form - the story of Ballymun, even of Ireland. The play is filled with wonderful, powerful moments, from the portrayal of drug-taking (although we've all seen Trainspotting, right?) to the excerpt of dialogue from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

As you might expect from a successful Fringe show the structure of the play is unorthodox. At times it has a hint of the Beckett to it; but there is change, there is progress... sort of. The more things change, the more heroin stays the same. The narrative trick of the play is that the characters aren't junkies, they're actors preparing for a play about heroin. The result is an exceptionally thin "fourth wall" - at one point early on one of the actors asks the audience to stand for the national anthem. (And yes, they stood. A few even sang along.) Actress Lauren Larkin's emotional outpourings are made all the stronger by the lack of sharp divisions between the actors, characters, story and audience. The opening scene of the play is similarly ingenious - at first you might not even realise the play has started.

For all that, I do have one criticism and it's fairly serious. At about 105 minutes with no interval, the play felt too long. It started very nicely, but lost momentum along the way. Yes, this suits the narrative and concept, and yes it allows the actors to really take their time with good material, but it felt as if a little less would have been more.

If you're in the Ballymun area or if you're looking to see an unusual and clever play, HEROIN is well worth a look. Due to the lack of pace towards the end I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend it to a broader general audience. It's good, but not a must-see.

HEROIN continues its run in Axis Ballymun tonight (Friday 25th) at 8pm and on Saturday 26th at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets cost €15/€12.

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