Review | Personal Space Volume 2 – A Trilogy of Dark Comedy
They’re at it again. Stephen Colfer, Hannah Mamalis and Peter McGann reunite to bring a trio of plays to the Smock Alley stage. With a mix of tongue-in-cheek, social commentary and dark humour, Personal Space Volume 2 guides us through the inner minds of three of Ireland’s brightest upcoming talents.
Having missed the first installation of Personal Space, I was determined not to miss my chance to catch Vol 2 on its run in the Smock Alley’s Boys School theatre space. Thankfully no previous knowledge of Vol 1 is necessary to enjoy the three stand alone plays which ran for ninety minutes straight-through.
There were some moments where the pacing felt slow and my rear end didn’t appreciate the ninety minute runtime on a wooden bench but I still recommend this trifecta of dark comedy for all of you with predilections for the morose depravity we call life.
We kicked things off in the Sarah Baxter directed trilogy with ‘The Last Goodbye’ written and performed by Mamalis (Republic of Telly, Des Bishop’s This Is Ireland) and McGann (Pulp Injection, Locus of Control). A brutally dark look at the hashtag, influencer generation, ‘The Last Goodbye’ let the house know what they were in for from the get-go. Hilarious, cringeworthy and down right sad – this was a rollercoaster.
Wokeness, relationships, toxicity, love and jealousy run through the gauntlet of the opening play. The feuding faces of real life vs social presence are played to great effect by both McGann and Mamalis.
‘The Last Goodbye’ suffers a little with pacing issues after the halfway mark but it is soon forgotten as the final third falls into place.
‘Back Home’, the second play on the night, started before I was even aware it had begun. Written and performed by Colfer (Dreamgun, Mimes In Time) and McGann, ‘Back Home’ uses the space around the stage excellently, utilising the dark and unseen backstage areas.
It tells the story of two brothers who are breaking into their old family home to retrieve something of more financial importance rather than sentimental. The back and forth between Colfer and McGann felt quintessentially Irish to me. It tells a story of family life, of sibling rivalry, of nostalgia and pain. The building blocks of every Irish household.
Telling the story in the dark, moving around behind the scenes with just torches creeping through the walkways and set pieces, immerses you wonderfully in the conversation between the brothers. You play it through your own eyes, your own home, your own siblings. A brave move, but one that stood with me leaving the theatre.
The final play on show on the night was sci-fi ‘Personal (Space)’ written and performed by Colfer and Mamalis, with McGann as Kevin the android. Colfer, Mamalis and McGann finish off the series with the lightest and silliest play of the night. ‘Personal (Space)’ feels like something from Wonder Showzen, seemingly innocent on the outside but something dark and dirty underneath.
The simple set and lighting set up is used incredibly well as we are transported onto a ship travelling faster than the speed of light through the abyss of space. Colfer and Mamalis both gladly take the opportunity to chew the scenery in this one and it is a joy to watch.
The naive twosome who have more pep in their step than the humanoids on Barney are kept in check by McGann’s Kevin who takes more than a smidgen of influence from Red Dwarf’s Kryten. But all is not as it seems for the future of the human race and after her first original thought, Mamalis’ Cora is on the job to figure it all out.
‘Personal (Space)’ is hilarious, silly, heart-warming and has more wanking jokes than you can shake a phallic stick at. It serves as a bit of a palate cleanser too after the preceding, heavier pieces of work. Sure, all three are full of on point comedy writing but the whimsy of ‘Personal (Space)’ takes it to a different level.
Personal Space Volume 2 is a great example of the booming talent pool our capital has to offer. The writing shines particularly bright throughout the three performances. There is an obvious understanding of their generation from all three writers; life in 2019 ain’t easy but it is easy to laugh at.