Cannibalism is not something I’ve had much chance to think about, nor has it been brought to my attention as a pressing matter within college. However, in Sinéad Bermingham and Rebecca Feely’s production of Maggie, it becomes an issue difficult to ignore. In fact, after seeing this production, I could think of little else.
This original production (written by Bermingham herself) sees a young, cheery waitress begin work at a wine bar that has fallen on hard times. The stern manager, Maggie, and her fellow (equally stern) colleagues have been hiding a dark secret that has been keeping the business afloat. It is important to state that I saw the show’s first performance, and therefore would excuse some of the play’s clunkier moments. Making allowances for this, I think the actors coped well, and there were some encouraging performances. Among these were some hilarious moments from the two chefs (played by Andrew Oakes and William Penswick), the zealous Kingston (played by Brian Donnelly) and his accomplices (played by Susie Young and Fionn Rogan), who displayed a vampiric thirst for Maggie’s wine, which, as it turned out, was not simply ‘a special red’, but something much more sinister (Dun dun duuuun). This revelation certainly did not come as a surprise, and I doubt I was the only person in the audience who had guessed almost immediately, but the parodied (and at times, rather painfully) slow exposing of the ‘twist’ in the tale did create some comic moments. These came most significantly from the naive and recently employed waitress, Sally (played by Hannah Carey); her ignorance to the underlying wicked cackling of her fellow workers was a highlight of the show. Maggie herself (played by Katie Rice) certainly captured the element of evil needed for the plot to be understood, and her slow unraveling was compelling, as I felt Rice grew into the role as the performance developed.
There were some noteworthy artistic choices within the production, and the atmosphere encapsulated the intimate yet menacing themes throughout the play. The band was an excellent touch, and although some key moments may have been overridden by their artistry, it added to the theatricality and drama of the piece. And dramatic it was. The final scene (which, in my opinion, suffered the most through the transition from rehearsal to performance, understandably) was a mêlée of chaos, and a satisfyingly shocking end to a play of smoke and mirrors. There were a few laughs from the audience, and although I believe it was meant to be taken more seriously, I think this worked in its favor as the tumult and commotion stormed the stage. However, some of the laughs may have been due to one of the ‘dead’ characters opening his eyes and watching in amusement as the scene unfolded.
Maggie is worth a watch and I am certain, much like a fine wine improving with age (cheeky link there), that the promising performances will only get stronger.