Thursday, July 27, 2006

Alice in Wonderland

Alice Prendergast is not a household name – yet. But you heard it here first, this is probably the best Irish actor of her generation. I was fortunate enough to catch her one woman show last night in a small, intimate setting. It was truly remarkable and I feel privileged to have stumbled across this major talent by complete chance.

Alice began the hour long performance with a stunning portrait of a young woman embarking on a journey of self-discovery. Initially shy and lacking confidence, this character had just arrived in ‘the big smoke’ for the first time, having been abandoned by her feckless older sister. The girls’ parents weren’t mentioned in the 20 minute monologue and it was clear that the protagonist idolised her also unnamed sibling. It was also apparent, although never explicitly stated, that the abandonment by her sister, though temporary, was sudden and related in no small part to the attentions of an attractive young man. Informed by her own lack of interest in men and by her low self esteem, Alice’s character dissected and ridiculed the courtship charade. “I can’t see what that one sees in men, but her head is always turned by some young buck who’ll only go on to break her heart’, Alice observed with wisdom beyond her years. Although you clearly got the sense that these were someone else’s words.

The mood changed dramatically after a brief pause for breath. We were now in the Spar shop on Merrion Row, a busy and bustling enterprise that showcased all Dublin’s rich and colourful tapestry. Alice assumed first the role of a non-national worker with very poor English whose only function seemed to be to mop a precious 3 square foot of floor just inside the shop door and re-arrange the Ballygown water bottles into neat and even rows. An absent minded civil servant from the Dept of Finance arrived every day for his Guardian newspaper and a packet of polo mints. An earnest young business woman busily blackberried as she waited to be served. Every day Charlo Hughes delivered Cuisine de France produce to the store, piping hot from a Gallic patisserie somewhere west of Cherrywood.

We learned about these, and countless other characters though Alice’s accurate portrayal of Nina, the cashier who bantered with the customers and repeatedly made informative asides to the audience. Nina had the air of a vibrant young woman of Eastern European origin who was being woren down by the passive aggressive time-poor Celtic Tiger cubs. In one abrupt word, “Next!”, accompanied by a weary sigh, Alice caught the essence of what passes for customer service in our latte-fuelled, SSIA-financed world. Her accent momentarily drop from the distinctive clipped Baltic delivery to the throaty, careladened intonations of an older woman, born and raised in the Liberties. “Are you all roight der, luv?”

Those of us enthralled by the performance were indeed alright. And I travelled home convinced that I’d seen a sharp observer of society at her brilliant best. I fully expect to read an article in tomorrow’s Irish Times telling me that Alice has been recruited to play opposite Cillian Murphy in the latest Neil Jordan movie. If Alice Prendergast is the new face of L’Oreal within 4 months, I won’t be a bit surprised. Or if she appears in the Abbey’s next major Synge performance, it will be very good casting. Although, I am reliably informed that the State, Alice’s mother and child protection legislation take a dim view of a four year old being lumbered with such expectations so early in her career.

8 Comments:

Blogger Curly K said...

Beautifully written review Paige.

10:40 a.m., July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Sounds really interesting. What's it called and where is it on?

12:34 p.m., July 27, 2006  
Blogger John of Dublin said...

Well done. I've added you to my short Blogroll!

4:14 p.m., July 27, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

I was completely convinced. I was looking for a newspaper to see where she was performing and hoping that she was going to travel her show. I was remembering the "Vagina Monologues"...

You're a real trickster. You've done that before. I remember reading another great story about a party, wasn't it?

What fooled me was the timescale. A whole hour! That's some performance. Did you get her permission to publish her name?

Great to have you back letting your writing do the talking.

11:12 p.m., July 27, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Sorry, I didn't really mean to be a smart arse. That is just the way things turn out sometimes. (You are correct Omani, I've pulled this stunt more than once!) It is just that whilst babysitting my 4 year old neice, I was so captivated by her imagination as we role-played with her toy cash register. So much so that I forgave her for asking "How's your fella, I haven't seen him around for a while!"

9:37 a.m., July 28, 2006  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Forgive my tired overworked brain for missing this. It's brilliant - more of this sort of thing please!

I only discovered your blog not that long ago, so I've missed your other posts like this - will you link to them here? I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd like to read them.

2:45 p.m., July 28, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

Hey, it's not being a "smart arse" or even a smart ass to be creative.

A good joke leads listeners in one direction so that they enter into a world of assumpsions, and then find everything turned inside out, and they laugh at their own self.

I think you have a talent for this: talent spotting.

But that's a dangerous one: her directness may yet prove her undoing. She's fortunate to have you round to listen to her.

You're a fabulous observer and writer of observations. I can still remember the walk in Stephen's Green, and the gardai on traffic duty. In response to Sinead's comment, how about you picking your best 20 posts and putting them together with a link? Then late-comers to your talent could go straight for the main course.

9:46 a.m., July 29, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Sinead, Omani, I have often felt the same about other people's blogs. If only I could get the top 20 posts, it would be so handy. A sort of "Best of Blog". My only fear is that I'd struggle to get to 10 good ones let alone 20. But I'll put together a blog post with a couple of those links that Omani suggested as they did get a great reaction.

I envy those bloggers of consistency and long standing who are able to pull out an old post from their archives and it still be very fresh.

Paige

9:29 a.m., July 31, 2006  

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