Terminus is a play that demands to be seen but prepare to be challenged, provoked and, perhaps even offended.
Audiences might not be enticed to go along to a play that involves descriptions of a robust sexual encounter with a demon made of worms or an apparent forced late-term abortion but then Terminus is not for the faint-hearted.
This is hard-core theatre and distinctly R-rated.
But it is also a tour de force and may be the most original piece of theatre you will see this year.
Author Mark O’Rowe — probably best known as the script-writer for the movie Intermission — presents us with a virtuoso piece of writing delivered, astonishingly, in rhythmic rhyme, not unlike rap but not unlike Shakespeare.
It’s like James Joyce in the hands of Eminem.
“… we go, see the slo-mo ebb and flow; the mill, the babble, the rabble of wobbling waywards, exiled and aimless, unlike us as, purposeful and double-file, like kids on a dare, we head who the hell knows where.”
The play follows what is becoming a familiar format for modern Irish theatre starting, perhaps, with Brian Friel’s Faith Healer.
Three characters tell us their stories, delivered in monologue, which interconnect in ways that are not apparent at the outset.
When the connection becomes apparent, the effect is startling.
This style of theatre – not for everyone – has also been used by Conor McPherson (The Weir) and, most recently, in Little Gem (Elaine Murphy).
In Terminus, the three actors stand and deliver their lines. They do not interact. The chilling drama is created by the compelling and disturbing stories they tell us. It’s an urban tale of love, betrayal and loneliness with an unexpected supernatural underbelly.
The three characters are all dealing with personal demons: guilt, low self esteem, regret. Real demons are not far away.
‘A’ (Olwyn Fouéré) is a middle-aged woman who volunteers for a suicide help line and gets sucked into a particularly horrible case involving a heavily pregnant young woman, with tragic consequences.
‘B’ (Catherine Walker) is A’s estranged daughter, a twentysomething single woman whose spontaneous decision to abandon her midweek home-alone routine of microwave dinners leads her into a deathly experience on top of a crane and an encounter with a real demon.
‘C’ (Declan Conlon) is a shy middle-aged man who, we discover, has sold his soul to the devil in return for a good singing voice. He casually reflects on his murderous exploits as he realises that the devil has betrayed him.
O’Rowe takes us on an extraordinary journey with the three characters into Dublin’s dark side and beyond. The humour, and there is much of it, is black as night and delivered with aplomb.
Terminus certainly elevates Mark O’Rowe’s status as one of Ireland’s outstanding stage writers. His is a rare talent.
On the back of last year’s Druid Theatre production of Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce, we are indeed lucky to have another memorable play from the cutting edge of modern Irish theatre on stage in Sydney.
Terminus is thrilling, terrifying theatre at its best. Haunting and provocative, it is shockingly good and should not be missed.
Our rating : 4/5