I’ve spent some time trying to figure out how to review Made Up, and I probably won’t do it justice. Written by Aoife Leonard and directed by Emer Heatley, Made Up is a surreal intersection of drama, poetry, and uncannily accurate real-life experience.
From the outset, this play blurs distinctions. In a tongue-in-cheek breakdown of the fourth wall, the audience was fitted with neon pink club wristbands. When presenting our tickets, we were sternly asked for ID at the door. Suspension of disbelief complete, we wandered into a world of bathroom cubicles, wordplay, failed expectations, and some notable accessories (I envied the cast their 90’s style bum-bags in particular).
The premise is perfect: four characters’ respective nights out are narrated in rhyme, complete with simple but hilarious visual aids and the occasional dance number. Starting with a depiction of the all-too-relevant FOMO disorder (that’s Fear Of Missing Out, for the uninitiated), the play addresses the familiar problem: when you don’t really want to go out, should you still go? Do you spurn the invite in favour of college assignments, family time or Netflix, or would you rather be part of the action? Is a good night’s sleep worth the envy that comes with the influx of Facebook tagging? Made Up addresses such dilemmas, along with bigger ones. As the plots of four different nights out interweave, we follow a seamless commentary on the stresses and elations of the student club scene.
The chemistry between the characters was flawless, especially with respect to the stage direction. The four actresses bring the narrative alive in flurries of well-choreographed movement. While their routines are sometimes clownish and farcical – using chairs as stepping-stones during conversation, for example, or acrobatically assuming the form of a four-person bicycle, still more striking is the way they portray the awkwardness behind more familiar, everyday actions. Forced conversations while jostling at the make-up mirror, painful mishaps with swinging bathroom doors, and the reluctant hands-in-the-air posture seen too often on dance floors – watching these actions rendered in the isolated environment of the stage highlights their ridiculous element.
A lot must be said for the lyrical dimension of the play. The balance between rhyme and colloquial speech keeps the flow of words natural, and it rarely feels like dramatized poetry. The stilted quality that might have accompanied the adaptation from one form to another is entirely avoided. The words themselves are hilarious, intricate and surprising. It is easy to identify with the themes discussed, and the narrative works as a social commentary without ever seeming clunky.
The stage is, for the most part, bare; the costumes are understated and subtly on-trend. However, the imagery of the storyline, punctuated by snippets of an evocative DJ set, evokes a world of implication. If anything, the play’s minimized visual aspect draws more attention to the words themselves.
Made Up offers tons of entertainment, underpinned by a cultural examination that will stay with you long afterwards. I would recommend seeing it by all means.
Alicia Byrne Keane