Saturday, November 19, 2022

Revved – tragic, intense, funny, and hard to wash off when you leave the theatre (Lyric Theatre until Sunday 20 November)

Eamon is trapped. His mind is replays the events of a night some years ago when he gave a lift to a couple of friends. Even though he was mad about cars – you had to be living in an area that’s boosted by the annual Donegal International Rally – he wasn’t really a boy racer with a heavy right foot. But a sense of longing crossed with an act of betrayal led to a moment of madness that forever changed the lives of the passengers and their driver.

Once upon a time, with Leaving Cert finished, Eamon wanted to rid himself from the small-town mentality and go off to study in Dublin, even if that would disappoint his best friend. Years later, those dreams are out the window. His contemporaries are in their final year of college. But Eamon still can’t escape, even when he turns up for the early shift at the petrol station.

A pimped-up ghetto blaster sits on a metal shelf in the back stockroom, squawking that “it’s three minutes past six”. The local radio station will continue to periodically interrupt Eamon’s remembrances before he shuts out the real world again and retreats to his well-worn road to destruction. He’s stuck in a depressing loop on the last weekend of the rally, with no notion of enjoying the buzz of the event.

“If in doubt, drift ‘er out.” Writer and performer Patrick Quinn curls his tongue around the Donegal accent and the expressive vocabulary of the rural area and rally driving. There’s an authenticity and a lyricism that helps carry the solo piece, and a lot of pure this and pure that, people getting langered, while everything’s cushty, though some people are a real dose!

Emily Foran’s direction of Revved emphasises the conversations playing out in Eamon’s head by turning foodstuffs on the shelves into puppet heads of people: a half loaf of bread, a six-pack of (southern) Tayto that towers over him, a bottle of football special (shaken and dropped on the floor) representing the girl he fancies, a blue pringle tube doubling up as a Garda officer.

A soundtrack of electronic dance merging into ambient beats sits underneath most of the one act play until the final minutes when Eamon is faced with the reality of life, his excuses and justification wiped away, no more dreaming, just the nightmare of that one night.

But it’s Quinn’s mesmerising performance, his piercing eyes, his willingness to embrace awkward silences that brings Revved to life. At one stage, it looks like Revved will become a treatise on betrayal and stunted ambition. But the final revelations spin it around to the question of forgiveness: whether it can be asked for, given, received. And whether someone can – or should – ever truly forgive themselves.

The ideas latch onto the audience during the 70-minute production. “Wouldn’t that be heavy to live with” said a complete stranger as we walked out of the auditorium. People wanted to – needed to – talk about the play. Other conversations went deeper than usual, much faster than expected, as people shared elements of tragedy that they carried in their lives. Typing this up a day later, my heart is still heavy, like the dark trace of engine oil that I can’t quite wash away.

It doesn’t quite have the twists and turns of Abbie Spallen’s three-handed, petrol station-based Pumpgirl, and the final half page of dialogue doesn’t seem as sharp as the piece deserves, but Revved is a great piece of new writing that deserves to be seen.

Revved is a tragic tale, intense, funny, and very poignant. You can catch the final performance on Sunday 20 November in the Lyric Theatre.

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