Tag Archives: 2010

A Room With No View

When life pre-empts fiction, it is then at a point where one pauses and asks not “What?”, but “Why?” It is post-event, post action and leaves one only with the option to ‘react’. If you are to pick up a copy of Room by Emma Donoghue without knowing of the terrifying and chilling stories of the captivity and abuse of Jaycee Lee Dugard or Elizabeth Fritzl, the story would lack none of its impact or amazement at such an existence as that lived by Jack and Ma. However, armed with the details of real and similar stories, the gritty accounts of subterranean and bunkered life, then your reaction to ‘fiction’ becomes blurred.

Room is the story of 5-year old Jack, born into existence but not into the world as we know it or as his mother once knew it. Jack’s worlds is eleven feet square and very little else. Jack, oblivious to anything outside the lead-lines walls of his shed-prison, is unsettlingly content in his private world where the only human contact he encounters are that of his mother and the shadowy night visits of ‘Old Nick’. Room presents how captivity tortures Ma and Jack but in very different ways. Ma was just 18 when she was kidnapped and locked up. She was a college student, popular, studious and care-free. It was her good nature that saw her lured by her captor. Her memories of her former life are a constant pain as she knows of the joy of life outside Room. Jack, born into this walled world knows nothing of life and is unknown to him, tortured by his complete ignorance of real life.

The story is told in Jack’s voice. The child narrator adds a purer innocence to the sad tale. His frustration is palpable at not being able to comprehend the possibility of life outside Room. Ma and a small television set are his only sources of information. Anything outside of this is beyond Jack’s mind. His friends are inanimate objects, the drab and meagre possessions which make up the home.  Relationships with these objects such as ‘lamp’, ‘ball’ or ‘rug’ are easy to Jack as they can’t hurt him.

Jack has simply always only known a life where he is enclosed. The symbolism of his birth and life are not lost on this theme. He moves from the womb, to Room, sleeps in a wardrobe and even makes a break for freedom wrapped up in ‘Rug’. Ma, ever the figure of strength balances her hatred for her captor with her patience and devotion to her son.

Emma Donoghue

Protecting Jack at all costs from the grips of ‘Old Nick’ is the greatest act of devotion she can deliver.


The idea of a captive verses public life are explored and teased out expertly by Donoghue. The media frenzy and incessant and morbid interest by the public in their brutal and grotesque life in Room is a fair reflection and commentary on current society where the instant access and dissemination of ‘news’ and information via social media prove no-one or nothing is ever private anymore. While never contemplating a return to ‘Room’, the pressure of media notoriety provides its own struggles for the tragic pair of Ma and Jack. How Jack comprehends the possibility of human contact, the concept of family, of truth, trust and freedom make this story much more than just a commentary on any case of a sadistic rapist in Austria. In fact, to limit this book to simply being a knee-jerk reaction to that case does not do justice to the inert beauty, warmth and also tragedy of Jack and Ma’s life and relationship.

The voice of Jack as the child narrator is effective but at times does prove inconsistent as at times he composes sentences that should be far beyond his comprehension or vocabulary. This is more than a minor quibble in what is simply an astounding and horrifying story. Donoghue’s child narrator is still a most engaging child character, as credible as perhaps Mark Haddon’s child narrator in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. It is a book that compels you to read it in one sitting so don’t be surprised if you find your entire day or night devoted to this story! On finishing this 2010 Man Booker prize nominated book, the tragic realisation is that life indeed is stranger and more terrifying than fiction.

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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Books, Culture


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The Power of Advertising

1940s vintage advertisement

An online resource for fully digitised visual advertisements, ranging from the 1790’s to the 21st century is being run by Phillip Lenssen and contains over 120,000 images. Vintage Ad Browser ( is an incredible resource that allows anyone with an interest in the history of advertising or who would simply like to browse and wonder in humour and sometimes disbelief what in the past passed for valid advertising – political correctness be damned!  The categories of advertisements range from alcohol, cigarettes, military/propaganda, travel, shaving, toys, guns, sweets, drinks and many others. A selection of advertisements are printed below. Please note some are offensive and are printed purely to provide historical context. All images are courtesy of Vintage Ad Browser.

For a selection of images from Vintage Ad Browser, see Staged Reaction’s Flickr page at:

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Posted by on November 29, 2010 in Uncategorized


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The Memory Palace at Galway’s Theatre Festival

'Memory Palace' at Nuns Island theatre

Blue Patch productions staged their work-in-progress piece, The Memory Palace, as part of the third annual Galway Theatre Festival. Using characters and stories from Greek mythology, the playwright Jane Madden strives to explore the realms of our memory, our identity and the uncharted regions of our psyche. When we die we cross into the Underworld and are given a choice; to drink from the river Lethe and forget all our pain or to drink from the river Mnemsoyne and remember everything. Lottie chooses to remember but at what cost?

The black-box setting of Nuns Island theatre aptly mimics the purgatorial scene between memory and between realities. Aoife Connolly, who plays Lottie, the woman who is lost in time and place, is still and frozen, like a seated sphinx. “You are here”, she half acknowledges, half questions Mimi. “I was always here, since before” This exchange places the emphasis on what has already transpired, past actions that are beyond recollection by Lottie.

As she drinks the water of the river Mnemsoyne and memory becomes reticent, there is purpose to the goading of Andy Crowe’s Mimi, in forcing Lottie to remember, regardless of the pain this will bring. The past and thoughts, the working of Lottie’s mind are relayed on the screen projected behind the character, a blurred sequence of images that hint at what transpired. The imagery of the clothes force the realization of a ruined wedding, a distorted union; “My dress, his suit, his tie, that he wore for me”.

Aisling Quinn’s beautiful vocals and the staggered entrance on-stage of Andrea Scott forces a flashback like effect which presents a separate possibility; that the happy ending and wedding of Lottie is not her memory at all, but that of Scott’s character, Faye, who married the love and groom of Lottie. These overlapping lives and concentric stories blur the narrative and question who in fact owns the story.

Bluepatch’s production is extremely interesting and current. It has traces of works that trace the female reawakening to a lost and broken past, as Olwen Fouere hauntingly did is Sodome My Love and it also has parallels with works with other exciting groups such as The Company who explore the identity and memory of the modern form.

It is ironic that as a memory play, what Madden chooses to leave out and chooses to forget provides more of the story than we actually see.


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Posted by on November 1, 2010 in Culture, Theatre


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