This review is by Liam Murphy from March 4th edition of The Munster Express.
The excellent young theatre company – Devious Theatre Company, Kilkenny did not disappoint their growing number of fans with Scratcher, written and directed and acted in by John Morton. Now in their fifth year, they still display a wicked sense of humour, an almost manic physical style of theatre as they set their play in a Dole Office.
They now have Arts Council support, as well as embarking on a project In The Future When All’s Well with a residency with an in Kilkenny Arts Office in 76 John Street. Scratcher is the first part of this residency and the In The Future quote is from Morrissey but it sounds Shakespearean.
From the moment the audience arrive at the venue there are lots of semi-official posters and one saying – Do Not Read The Poster. A video, instead of showing Social Welfare information is playing an extract from a previous play – Trainspotting. A sloping ramp leads to an imposing desk where an abrupt official snaps out instructions and your ticket becomes your dole card.
Soon the audience have to form a queue, 80 bodies in single file to be interrogated by a Welfare Officer but not asked to sign on. This process slowly introduces the now seated audience to the characters who are acting up in the queue. There was nervous laughter. Then the stage performance began and the jokes, stylised physical routines had serious levels of impact and you knew you were in social welfare not welfare as these six young unemployed act out a powerful story and they resort to guns to take over the building and this in-your-face style makes the audience seem trapped and for about an hour the seven characters explain how they got in this position.
Characters have identity like D or P and Alan Butler is The Man (at the desk and later a guard), Amy Dunne is excellent as McC and she shows the anger and confusion of “somethin’ must be done”, John Morton is a dangerous character who just wants to sign on but is sent from queue to queue to bring back more documentation. He is scarily accurate. Annette O’Shea is the student who did all the right things and can’t understand where it’s all gone wrong. David Thompson is the laid back geezer who just wants his Free Money – a fine portrayal.
Ken McGuire is the working and nixering plumber who feels the Government owes him and he signs on to meet his mortgage. This is breakfast-roll man at the top of his game. Ross Costigan has more nervous twitches than a mental hospital and he portrayed such volatility in this piece.
In a sense, the show peters out without a solution or resolution leaving the audience in a social limbo, very much the way people feel. What does the future hold, why has our future changed? Will all ever be well again?