Irish Repertory Theatre Streams The Cordelia Dream

Marina Carr Play in Dublin

By: - Aug 06, 2021


Irish Repertory Theatre
The Cordelia Dream
by Marina Carr

The Irish Repertory Theatre has expanded our notion of performance in their streamed productions.  A company with a small theatre (148 seats in the main house), now offers its consistently superior productions to the wide audience they deserve.

The Cordelia Dream was filmed in the New Theatre Dublin. The camera is not the eye of a theater orchestra audience however. Instead it mounts the stage and stays tight on the actors, giving us intimacy and a place in the midst of a tug of war between two composer/pianists, a father and daughter. 

The reference to Cordelia in the title brings King Lear and his daughter to mind as well to those of the two characters, a nameless Man and Woman, who often refer to the Shakespeare play.

We meet Man (Stephen Brennan) in. a dark apartment, in which the only chair is a piano stool.  Man has pared down so that nothing obstructs inspired gifts that float into the room when he is lucky. At first, we don’t even know that the Woman (Danielle Ryan) who arrives is his daughter.

We recognize from King Lear, the father’s failure to see the goodness of the daughter until she has died. The musical gift which Man has given his daughter, in the genes, is one she cannot deny. And yet he would have her deny it. She has exceeded him in public.  He has spent twenty-five dry years, unable to milk his own gift.  He blames her. She has defied him by exceeding him.

The play is full of rich dialogue. A visit from Woman was precipitated by a dream about Cordelia and Lear. The final composition is Lear’s Lullaby for his dead daughter, who disappears. Composer David Downes has provided compelling original music for the musical pair.

One is provoked to wonder about gifts that are transmitted in genes and the intergenerational conflicts that arise around them. In The Cordelia Dream this inheritance dominates theinterior landscape.  One well-known American musical family attempted to get a second and third generation of musical artists to abandon careers because the musical world was so tough. They did not succeed, but bitter battles were fought. 

How can you deny your offspring the expression of a gene you yourself have clearly transmitted, one wonders.  This dark territory is captured by the cinematographer Nick Ryan.

The set here is very dark. Only the window holds light.  Woman often stands at the window, waiting for we know not what. Small lamps in the room glow gold.  Yet Joe O’Byrne directs to make each character stand out from the darkness. We are not witness to the moment the Woman succumbs to black.

Danielle Ryan, in soft dresses designed by Jessica  Cashin, and Stephen Brennan, capped with his dead wife’s old hat like a fool, move to and away from each other like feral animals and finally with a gentle embrace. 

In the end, the Woman is sacrificed. The embedding of Lear leads us to wonder if her end was needless. Only in the Man’s imagination is he able to admit his cruelty to his best child. 

As a battle between two strong-willed characters, this drama compels. Playwright Carr has a lovely lilt to even her most bitter lines. 

The first run of the stream of The Cordelia Dream is up soon.  It will continue to be available On Demand on here.

Past productions are also available here. Playbacks includes readings of Sean O’Casey plays. A dedicated Theatre At Home kit, gives streaming audiences access to playbills, videos with the cast and creative team and background information on plays.  Irish Repertory Theatre is a master of this new form. 

Irish Repertory Theatre
In association with Bonnie Timmermann
The Cordelia Dream

By Marina Carr
Directed by Joe O’Byrne
Stephen Brennan as Man
Danielle Ryan as Woman
Sofia Foran as Young Girl

Cinematography by Nick Ryan
Set Design by Robert Ballagh
Costume Design by Jessica Cashin
Sound Design & Original Music by David Downes
Edited by Nick Ryan
Piano from Pianos Plus
Rehearsed at The Ireland Institute, Pearse Street, Dublin