"People are quick to judge", actor and writer Shaun Dunne told me when I met him recently and discussed his new play Do You Read Me?, a collaboration with Talking Shop Ensemble. The subject of their play - mediumship, communication with spirits and the dead - is certainly a devisive one, frequently subject to ridicule yet widely practiced throughout the city. As a psychic might use Tarot cards, Talking Shop Ensemble and Dunne use mediumship as a means by which to explore deeper themes.
Belief - or an unsatisfied need for belief - is at the heart of the play. Our grannies lit candles, comment the protagonists, as they wonder how modern Ireland will establish a new set of beliefs. Though Dunne stays away from directly confronting the reasons for loss of faith in religion and politics, the spiritual void caused by this loss is the driving, hidden force behind Do You Read Me?. Will the Irish be hardened by the culture of relevation? Will we find comfort and empathy in something new?
Moving between multiple forms of the theatre - semi-biographical "docu-drama", first-person narration, stylised monologues - we're told about people's experiences with mediums. This is a sympathetic but balanced portrayal, poking fun at its subject but emphasising that many people get great comfort from mediums.
The newly reopened Smock Alley Theatre is a good and atmospheric venue for the play. As Dunne points out, theatre is in its own way another source of empathy and belief. My quick judgement: I liked it and left happy. Dunne and Talking Shop can be pleased with their production.
Do You Read Me? continues until Friday 16th in Smock Alley Theatre, starting at 8:45pm each evening and running for 60 minutes. Tickets cost €14/€12.