Review: Citysong cover photo

Review: Citysong

Review: Citysong cover photo

If you have been lucky enough to catch the work of Irish company Malaprop—and you still can because 'Everything not Saved' is at New Diorama next week as part of the excellent Incoming Festival—you will be familiar with the pellucid writing of Dylan Coburn Gray.

Citysong, winner of the Verity Bargate Award and arriving in London via Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, is in a different mode but still has plenty to entice.

Essentially it is a meditation on time, unfurling over a 24-hour period in Dublin but also darting back and forth across the years through three generations of an extended family.

Sarah Bacon’s design comprises a sheet of glass that is sometimes transparent and sometimes reflects the audience back at ourselves. It echoes the way the characters keep catching glimpses of themselves and are surprised to find they look like their parents. It also cleverly hints at the layers of the city itself as well as the layered history of the family.

Photos by Ros Kavanagh.

Grounded by the birth of a child, the play spreads out its tentacles across the city through personal histories that quietly magnify the throb and hum of everyday life and everyday lives. Citysong is a love song. But it also points to our individual insignificance as time marches on in its hobnail boots, obliterating previous generations even as new ones come into the world. Memories are woven through this show so it also becomes a quilted social history of a changing Dublin with changing attitudes towards courtship, marriage, childbirth and community.

Coburn Gray’s play owes more than a nod to both Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It is lyrical and dense, jam-packed with characters and honeyed with poetic language. The production sometimes struggles to animate the text theatrically. But stay with it and it rewards, not least because the cast of six bring every character—however small—vividly alive. Whether that’s group of pregnant women labouring furiously in the maternity hospital, a group of giggling, knowing school girls, gossiping neighbours, or a bug-eyed teenager finding out about sex on the internet.

Dan Monaghan, Daryl McCormack and Clare McKenna.

Citysong runs at Soho Theatre until Sat 6 July. You can find tickets here.

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Lyn Gardner
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