The theatre is filled with a white haze. The stage is framed by what looks a broken mirror, some of the shards still attached. The house lights dim. There is a building of sound that becomes a roar, the lights on the stage flash quickly and brightly, catching you by surprise after being immensed in the darkness. After the shock of the bright lights, three actors appear, each standing on their own podium, dressed in the everday, lit only faintly by white light crossing horizontally across their faces. The lights fade on “B” and “C” and “A” begins to speak…
And so begins the STC’s Touring Production from The Abbey Theatre in Ireland, Terminus. It is an intense 1 hour and 45 minutes. No interval, no movement of any kind, no interaction between the three actors, just three monologues that eventually intertwine.
At first, the story is engaging as the writing skill of O’Rowe reveals itself with his clever manipulation of the monologue form into that of verse. I think to myself, “this writing is modern day Shakespeare”. The rhythm and rhyme, ebb and flow of the dialogue suggests movement and supports that of the character’s stories.
Soon, listening to the character’s stories becomes a test of your skillful ability to imagine in your own head the events that the character recounts. Tune out (which I did a few times admittedly) and you miss a part of the story. All three stories and their respective characters, are bleak and not at all what you would expect. Terminus means “the end or extremity of anything” and the stories are certainly that. The way they reveal themselves makes listening to them worthwhile. The revelation is simple and subtle and fits perfectly within the rhythm and length of the play. You are hanging on until the last minute.
The acting is incredibly skilled and strongly supports the uniquely written dialogue. Olwen Fouere as “A” is engaging with her clear and aptly intonated delivery. “B” played by Catherine Walker was incredibly intense which I suppose was complimentary to her character but I found it a little too so. However it worked well in showing a jarring contrast between Walker’s “B” and Declan Conlon’s portrayal of “C” who was softly spoken by comparison. I was straining to hear him at times. It was not at all how you would expect an essentially crazy mad man to sound. All three actors, standing alone speaking to the audience show the isolation they all feel even after their stories intertwine.
Whilst I can look at each of the elements of Terminus individually and appreciate and praise their merit, I didn’t overly enjoy this play. It really was exhausting listening and imagining the events in my head nor did I feel anything in particular as I was leaving the theatre. If I had to feel anything it was mainly exhaustion and a feeling of “oh isn’t the world bleak?” The lack of interaction disappointed me and the monologues were incredibly long and as such couldn’t maintain my attention.
A very well written work with highly skilled actors doing justice to the material but it didn’t quite reach the heights of my expectation.
Image Credits: Dublino, mariocutroneo, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)