independent

Sunday 21 October 2018

Risk pays off with 'The Scourge'

Raw, witty and poetic, Michelle Dooley Mahon's 'The Scourge' had a huge impact, says Anna Hayes

Michelle on stage. Photo by Michael Duggan
Michelle on stage. Photo by Michael Duggan

A large crowd gathered for opening night of Michelle Dooley Mahon's one-woman play 'The Scourge', which was performed at Wexford Arts Centre for ten days.

The show was commissioned by Wexford Arts Centre with support from Artlinks. 'The Scourge', which is directed by Ben Barnes and stars the playwright, focuses on the relationship between mother, Siobhan, and daughter, Michelle, and the effects that Alzheimer's disease has on both of them.

Based on a memoir, the play is deeply personal, made all the more impactful by the fact that Michelle takes on the role herself, recreating her memories with a rawness that could only be portrayed by someone who has already lived through them.

There aren't too many people who don't know Michelle - if you didn't, she, with her whirlwind personality, would make sure you did by the end of the evening! With that in mind, it's intriguing to watch how stripped back her performance is. While the colour and artistry of her language remains, it is tempered with the calmness of someone who has made sense of the world around her.

As the play progresses, we are guided through Michelle's journey, as influenced by what is happening to Siobhan - as her mother's mind slips away, Michelle's goes into overdrive, not so much quelling as overpowering her fears through various coping mechanisms. There is a certain profoundness to her emergence at the other side and her reflection that the dead do not disappear, but become part of those around them, is a poignant observation.

The wit and poetry of Michelle's language is there in spades - her descriptions of events, places and people are vivid and unique to the point of hilarity - she has a gift for turning five words into 40, but makes you appreciate the fact that she did.

Speaking at the reception afterwards, producer of the play, and Executive Director of Wexford Arts Centre, Elizabeth Whyte said the play had come to life because people had been willing to take creative risks - Michelle had the courage to bear her soul in the initial biography 'Scourged', Elizabeth had read the book and decided it needed to be adapted for stage, Ben Barnes had come on board as director, Artlinks had granted funding for it, and the Board of the Arts Centre had backed it for production.

She remarked that the personal nature of the piece, for Michelle, and for audiences that had experienced similar moments in their lives, meant that it became a requiem for many.

Michelle expressed her own thanks to those gathered, joking that everyone had already heard enough from her that night!

She thanked those who had supported her along her journey and paid tribute to her family and father Tom, who was watching from the audience that night.

Wexford People

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