With Bewley's upstairs Café Theatre filling on a warm Saturday lunchtime to the background music of sixties soul and the smooth groove of Billy Paul singing Me and Mrs Jones all the right pointers were set for us to enjoy CallBack Theatre's production of Fred and Alice; Love in the Time of OCD. Callback Theatre was co-founded in 2001 by Cora Fenton who plays the role of Alice and John Sheehy who wrote and directed it. Fred is played by Ciaran Bermingham.
As the soups were finished the chatter stopped as the curtains were pulled and the lights dimmed. Fred bundles onto the stage- plump and awkward limbed, wiggling his fingers and with a stilted monotone voice starts reciting facts about music showing the characters' love of lists. Alice comes on in pigtails wearing a 50s style blouse and skirt, docs and ankle socks, looking a bit like Olive Oyl and all the more disturbing as she is not a young woman. She almost has the look of a girl string puppet about her.
Alice's father died in childbirth (!) and was brought up by her mother alone, never attending school. Going into care sometimes to 'give her mother a break' this is where she meets Fred. The characters perform various aspects of their disorders/skills- Alice has the ability to instantly state the number of letters in a phrase. But the play has its darker moments- Fred and Alice are aware of their own madness and this is the sadder element.
It is a tight fast-paced script which in no way ridicules the characters' conditions but rather shows another story behind those we may categorise as 'special needs' or label in some other way. There is some very creative use of minimal props and music in this both sad and comic play. As an aside, Fred's list skills reminded me of some of the interminable lists in Joyce's Ulysses - genius or OCD?!
Fred and Alice; Love in the Time of OCD runs at Bewley's Café Theatre until Saturday October 12th, Monday-Saturday at 1.10pm.
Booking 086-8784001 www.bewleyscafetheatre.com
The play will also tour in 2014- over seven weeks to venues and festivals in Ireland and abroad including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.