BWW Review: CITYSONG: Dublin's Urban Hymn

BWW Review: CITYSONG: Dublin's Urban Hymn

Through the lens of three generations of a Dublin family, Dylan Coburn Gray's ambitious Citysong unfolds on a single day - but ricochets between past and present - to track the momentous and the minute changes in the lives of its characters who are, ultimately, just "a pinch in the hourglass" of the city's tapestry.

Against a backdrop of Ireland's rapidly-changing societal mores, the play explores our need to belong, the sacrifices and rewards of family, and the gap between what we say and what we mean.

As the six-person cast play 60 characters in settings as varied as a scream-filled hospital delivery room and a testosterone-fueled teenage disco, we witness characters grow and decay. The broad humor Coburn Gray mines from a present-day adolescent turning to Google for sex education is juxtaposed, for example, with the poignancy of a widowed character slowly losing her memory to dementia.

BWW Review: CITYSONG: Dublin's Urban Hymn

That Coburn Gray is a spoken word artist as well as a playwright permeates Citysong's script. Delivered by multiple characters, the play's narration, infused with word play and alliteration, is, by turns, incantatory, lyrical, and declamatory.

Coburn Gray is a dazzling wordsmith, but the density of the narration is occasionally overwhelming and, inadvertently, opens a distance between the performers and the audience that inhibits the audience's emotional investment in the story line.

Caitríona McLaughlin's supple direction, Paul Keogan's atmospheric lighting, and the actors' dynamic ensemble playing unfold against Sarah Bacon's striking set: a spider's web-like, cracked mirror in the shape of a map of Dublin. As the play progresses, the audience can start to see their reflection in the mirror in a way that underscores the state-of-the-nation tenor of Coburn Gray's script that imaginatively shows us how a "city is a record of all that has happened to us, is happening, or will".

Citysong runs at the Black Box Theatre, Galway, until July 27, as part of the Galway International Arts Festival. See abbeytheatre.ie and giaf.ie.



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From This Author Brendan Daly