“Screw your courage to the sticking-place” cries not Lady Macbeth but French native Marie Violet Giordin (Aideen Wylde), wife to Irish tennis champion and Waterford boyo Vere St Ledger Goold (1853 – 1909). Following his defeat by a man of the cloth at Wimbledon in 1789, Vere Goold (Tadhg Hickey) lived a life both dramatic and tragic. With a plot no less large than any of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, or indeed a Hollywood blockbuster – from an Anglo-Irish upbringing, to sporting fame, love, loose living, Monte Carlo casinos, murder and finally, death by suicide on Devil’s Island – Love All is devised from historical account.
CheeryWild embody the staples of fresh and contemporary theatre practice – a heady merging of genres flung about at will, displaying both their knowledge of theatre history and practice, and their desire not to be bound by rules of convention. The fourth wall is broken and reconstructed incessantly as the players address the audience directly, mingle with them, step outside their roles and have a sneaky snog, and then return to action on stage.
Shakespeare is interspersed throughout the dialogue and narration, but the performance is by no means a pastiche or homage to established canonical voices. It is a salute to postmodern dramaturgical performance traits:– irony, self-reflexivity, fragmented structure and ambiguity in relation to established truth and historical fact underpin both language and performance mode.
This production is ultimately defined by the synergy between performers Wylde and Hickey, which they thrust into the audience in a manner that demands attention. Theirs is a performance based on tightly in-sync physicality, gesture, mime, virtuosity and theatricality. Yes, losing Wimbledon to a man in a dress is a stickler, as is missing out on one’s grand inheritance, but Love All does not take its audience to a place of contemplation concerning the tougher parts of Goold’s misfortune.
Rather, his spattered life and all who played in it, particularly his twice-widowed murderess spouse, facilitate CheeryWild’s love of caricature and role-play. A particularly comedic murder of a wealthy widow near the end heightens the mocking nature which frames the entire piece, serving to distance their performance from any sense of biography and keep it grounded in playful interpretation. A cheeky choice of contemporary interruptions also informs this milieu - from ‘D4’ accents to snippets of ‘Smack my bitch up’ blasting in the background.
Gallagher’s direction ensures each moment of play is well-paced, and the concise set design comprising a trunk and a mannequin allow Wylde and Hickey to jump about the small stage in their tennis whites as much as is spatially possible. An overabundance of clichés was in danger of becoming repetitive, so that a 50 minute slot did suffice for this piece. Yet the lingering message of Goold’s life – a foolish man manipulated by an evil woman to his doom – was perhaps the most repetitive cliché of all. Surely her two deceased husbands ought to have been warning enough, and thus his failures and complicity were his own.
Miriam teaches Drama and English at UCD, where she is completing a PhD.