Review | The Water Orchard Collapsing Horse Theatre

Each time I enter into the world of Collapsing Horse, it feels like I’m attending a class on ‘How to Make Exciting Theatre’. The Water Orchard, written by Eoghan Quinn is the latest exciting addition to the theatre company’s repertoire. Since their formation in 2012, the ensemble consistently produces compelling theatre with their experimental style, dynamic story-telling and skilled performances.

The Water Orchard is a story about a family confronted by the beginning of their end. Memories of the great Water Orchard are long gone. The ‘78 Vintage is a distant memory, the glory of their past has faded.

Their lives consist of conversations about how things should be, how they would like them to be, and what kind of eggs they would serve if they were to build a new brunch garden.

The Water Orchard -
Source – Photo by Ste Murray

Brother and Sister, Addison and Noelle are faced with a predicament. Their mother has gone missing and they’re not sure what has happened to her. But in the midst of their semi-concerned pondering, Noelle starts to make plans to revive the family estate from wrack and ruin and turn it into a resort for wealthy newlyweds. 


Their mother– Old Madeline– played by a linen blanket and a straw hat, has been thrust into limbo. She floats around attempting to make sense of her surroundings, while being interrogated by a talking projector with a fondness for emoticons.   

It’s difficult to assign one genre to this play and that is how these folks like it. It is farce, drama and tragedy rolled into one. Quinn has made a beautiful and complex piece of art. He has created intriguing characters and a rich script that is both hilarious and dark, accompanied by the immense talents of the four actors who have been whipped into frenzy by Co-Director Dan Colley.

Rachel Gleeson is a star performer as the detestable Noelle. She is obnoxious and shrill. But as the play unfolds, what we see in her is desperation and sadness. She is a shadow, and is trying her utmost not to fade away into the walls of her mothers’ crumbling manor.

What is this great secret that Madeline is hiding? How did the Water Orchard fall into such poor repair? What happened in the finger painting incident that left ghostly Addison with a hook for a hand? Why is the Detective’s accent completely indecipherable? These are questions that we may never know the answer to, but that doesn’t really matter.

The wonderful cast pour themselves out for us onto their very beautiful stage, and they’re having a really brilliant time. Things did get a little bit manic at times, but the audience was too busy guffawing to care that much. This is an adventure into confusion. It has more layers than a mille-feuille. It is an amalgamation of loss, ageism, sadness and knee slapping humour. Quinn’s creation is a portrait of the vile, the ridiculous and the pathetic. These are humans teetering on the edge and about to fall off.

<i> The Water Orchard ran from 18th-29th July at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin. </i>

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