Kilworth’s Palace Players explore the importance of human companionship through people’s love of animals in its stirring performance of Christian O’Reilly’s Chapatti.
Upon entrance to the hall, the set design caught the audience’s attention immediately, across one stage there were a total of five settings which were used throughout the play. The design was simplistic yet effective, with significant colour contrasts representing the personalities and emotional states of the two characters.
True to O’Reilly’s artistic intention, the Palace Players played closely to the original script, which is made up of a mixture of monologues and duologues. A lot of the play breaks the fourth wall, with the characters speaking directly to the audience, narrating certain aspects of their lives and it worked extremely well.
The story itself circulated around two characters, Dan played by Sean Ahern and Betty played by Mary Colbert. Both these actors displayed masterful and seasoned performances, and it was clear to the audience that they knew these characters inside out.
Dan’s story was a sad one, a man who had lost the love of his life and had fallen into the depths of despair with only his pet dog, Chapatti to keep him company. Ahern’s repetition of the words; “I try to laugh” echoed throughout the audience as he tried his best to continue on.
Fortunately, Betty was then introduced as a form of comedic relief, a slightly batty woman with 19 cats. Colbert’s laugh was infectious and at times inappropriate, but that only added to her character.
Throughout the play, the audience watched the two meet and form an unlikely friendship, all thanks to a dead cat. It was clear that they needed each other in some shape or form, to all pet owners in the audience it reminded us that whilst our furry friends are some of the best company, we all need some form of human companionship.
The climax of the play saw Dan standing atop his kitchen chair with a noose around his neck, giving one of the most haunting and compelling performances I have personally seen in amateur theatre. The way his eyes bulged and his skin flushed red had everyone on the edge of their seats as the chair rocked, in fear that it might actually topple.
Thankfully we saw Betty intervene, reuniting Dan with his dog Chapatti, and then realising what was going on. In a ploy to help Dan, and herself in a way, Betty invites him over for dinner where they share an intimate meal, seeing aspects of the characters we had not seen before.
The play ended with a tender and happy conclusion as the audience let out a sigh of relief, yet it was realistic rather than fairytale-like. The play itself could easily ring true to many people, as it felt like we were watching people we knew from down the road and at least for myself, it helped to put other people’s situations into perspective.
The Claregalway Drama Festival continues until the 19th March, with a new play performed every evening.
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