The Words Are There (5 stars)

This article is from 2019

The Words Are There

A vital piece of physical theatre about male domestic violence

Praise must be heaped upon Irish actor Ronan Dempsey, of Nth Degree Productions, for creating something so dazzling with only the use of an upturned mop. Here is a production that bravely addresses male domestic violence, tackling its weighty subject with an experimental staging that seems absurd but seriously pays off.

Doting Mick cares for his girlfriend Trish by styling her hair, dressing her and even helping her to walk. But she isn't disabled – it's just that writer and performer Dempsey has chosen to represent her in the form of a mop. Their relationship seems to be progressing well, until one day Mick mucks up an important speech at a key moment and Trish responds by becoming emotionally abusive. As the relationship lengthens, her abuse worsens.

By anonymising Trish (the mop has no real face), Dempsey is making a stand for all of the thousands of cases of domestic violence upon men (and women) that are reported, and perhaps those that go unreported too. Dempsey is a fantastic physical actor. He employs dramatic movement and expression to communicate exactly the ways isolation and fear can break a person. For an added trick, all (well, almost all) the speech is pre-recorded so Dempsey is left further exposed, on stage alone.

At some of the more tense points, audience members crane their necks to look at the mop as it lay sideways on the floor: does looking at a mop for an emotional response signify madness? Nope: Dempsey forges true character and meaning in his relationship with Trish, and audiences are privileged enough to be awarded a visual feast as well as an emotionally complex and politically relevant thriller.

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, until 24 Aug, times vary, £9 (£8).

The Words Are There

  • 5 stars

Ronan Dempsey from Nth Degree Productions. Life has left Mick speechless, but in his silence there lies a story. Amidst childhood falsehoods and fragmented memories, he struggles to find the words for a very important day. A compelling and powerful endurance piece of 5 star comic/tragic physical theatre, delving into the…