Jockey by WillFredd Theatre. Reviewed by NAYD Young Critic Dara Eaton

As the Young Critics hit the stage of the Dublin Theatre Festival  on Oct 4th, we publish the final in our series of summer reviews. Dara Eaton from Carlow Youth Theatre visited the G.B Shaw Theatre in Carlow for the World Premiere of Jockey.

WillFredd Theatre
George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Carlow
Reviewed by Dara Eaton

After hearing great things about WillFredd Theatre’s innovative work, I went to their production of the one-woman show Jockey, made by professional dancer and choreographer Emma O’Kane, with many questions. How much dialogue should I expect? Would the play tell a story, or simply display a variety of impressive dance moves? As a drama critic reviewing a story told through dance, I may have left with even more questions than I had going in.

Emma O'Kane in Jockey by WillFredd Theatre Co.

Emma O’Kane in Jockey by WillFredd Theatre Co.

The show tells the story of O’Kane, who hopes to gain a better understanding of her late grandfather’s passion for horse racing by learning to be a jockey. As the performance progressed, visual effects such as newspaper articles projected onto screens and voice-over samples filled us in on the career of Phillip De Burgh O’Brien, who operated as a writer for a racehorse magazine and as a bloodstock agent, selling horses to jockeys for upcoming events. The story was basic, dwelling more on how certain situations affected the main character than how they altered the world around them. This is something that would normally fascinate me, as I believe the emotions of a character are explored more thoroughly when there is less emphasis on the outside world, and I felt prepared for a powerful display of expression. However, any feelings O’Kane experienced were conveyed through movement alone, an element I am unfamiliar with and that at first seemed intriguing, but eventually became repetitive and predictable. The movement on stage often seemed almost misplaced, without any obvious tie to what the character was experiencing emotionally.

Regardless of these concerns about the choreography, the dancing was spectacularly executed by O’Kane. As it was the production’s world premiere, I went in expecting some hiccups, but each dance number was rehearsed and performed to perfection, which caught the attention of everyone in the audience. The production was quite extraordinary to look at, as a set packed full of screens with constantly changing news articles ensured the viewer was kept alert throughout.

Even these screens had a drawback, though, as the ever-altering text meant that much of the story was lost. Though I admire the innovation, being caught between reading the text and watching the movement left me and the group I went with unaware as to what was going on at times, which drew me out of the experience of the show. I found myself fumbling through the programme in an attempt to understand what exactly I was watching.

Undoubtedly, Jockey left me with mixed emotions and I am of two minds as to whether or not to wholeheartedly recommend this play. Would someone with more interest in physical theatre enjoy this piece more than I did? Or were my observations fair from the perspective of any theatre fan? The only recommendation I can give, is for you to see this play and decide for yourself.

Dara Eaton is a Carlow Youth Theatre and is an NAYD Young Critic for 2015.

The G.B Shaw Theatre kindly supported this event.

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