It Is Good We Are Dreaming had me in a trance. Between the sadness and the madness that permeate the play, it was also very relatable. The acting was excellent, the voiceovers haunting and the stage design fresh. What I thought would be a melancholy production turned out to be hilarious, earnest and warm. Throughout, my eyes were glued to the little yellow teapot sitting on Fiadh’s kitchen table, representing the everyday quality of the play. That potent symbol of Irishness jumped out at me, as did the characters’ distinct Dublin accents, the checked rug hung over a chair, and the little bowl of lemons on the table. Playwright Ultan Pringle is right when he says, “a lot happens in a very short hour.”
Small talk is a key component of It Is Good We Are Dreaming. The play begins as siblings Fiadh and Fionn sit down to catch up. The contrast between the two characters is emphasised in their six-year age gap. Juvenile Fionn (played by Luke Dalton) cracks jokes while Fiadh (played by Laoise Murray) takes on the voice of reason. A familiar display of awkwardness is shown when Fionn gifts Fiadh a pot of “lilies”. As Fionn reaches for the flowers, that are not at all lilies and the silence is used extremely effectively to demonstrate the strain of two people who can’t quite get used to each other. Fionn talks about his “friend” Sophie, in doing so opening a conversation about relationships that reflects the intimacy problem many people experience today.
“‘There’s a huge mental health crisis in our generation, and that’s also explored in the play. I think it’s very very real and I don’t think we should be afraid to talk about and discuss it.’”
The conversational style of this play revealed situations we often find ourselves in on a daily basis. It is easy to sideline the feelings that surface in everyday life with college, work, friends and partners. Director Julia Appleby says: “There’s a huge mental health crisis in our generation and that’s also explored in the play. I think it’s very very real and I don’t think we should be afraid to talk about and discuss it. I would really ask and hope that older generations would come and see the play and engage with it. I think it’s important that we stop fighting and actually have conversations.” Honest conversations are not easy, yet Fionn and Fiadh make it look a lot easier. That said, the topics that they discuss feel very heavy. I cannot imagine it is easy to discuss an alcoholic father and a troublesome mother with an estranged sibling.
However, the difficult moments in the play are counteracted with moments of warmth and nostalgia. Both Fionn and Fiadh reminisce about seeing their mother emerge from the ocean wrapped in a pink towel, smiling. Throughout their recounting of childhood scenes, it was interesting to note how different the two characters’ perspectives were. Their separate views on their upbringing brought about questions on how they saw their parents then, and how this affects their opinions now. Their mother (voiced by Fionnuala Murphy) appears only through audio in the play, adding another perspective and generational quality to the performance. Her injected stories join Fionn and Fiadh’s childhoods with Irish mythological tales, rendering them entertaining, if chilling. The suspense builds very slowly, and finally climaxes when Fionn smashes the lily pot against the kitchen wall.
Existential questions on happiness, prompted by Fionn, invite the topic of survival in today’s world. Pringle quotes a moment in the play where Fiadh discusses moving forward: “You’re seeing one character Fionn, who can’t wrap his head around existing now and can’t understand the kind of … dystopian nature of it all. And then you’ve got Fiadh who confronts the idea of just getting on with it. She says, ‘you just have to learn to like the taste of oat milk and buy a gas mask and get a pair of wellies and just like keep going’, there’s no option but to just keep going.” Jarring as Fiadh’s view was, I found that it resonated with me. For many, ignoring existentialist worries is not an option, but for others, it is comforting to know that one can go to sleep at night without the answers. Pringle continues: “and I think we all relate to that, that we are despairing but we have to just keep going, and the role of art, theatre and media, becomes a chance of communion and acknowledging it, and coming out and thinking god I got to exercise something there.”
“The actors’ soliloquies revealed the inevitability of the transition from childhood to adulthood; their characters realise that once you grow up, you have to fill in a lot of blanks yourself.”
Both Dalton and Murray portrayed their characters’ thoughts with raw emotion. Dalton, in particular, stood out – I admit, his performance made me shed a tear. Pringle comments on the two actors, saying that “what’s also interesting to notice is how brave [they] have been and how much they have brought to [the play] … [Dalton and Murray have] workshopped the play alongside us the whole way through.” The actors’ soliloquies revealed the inevitability of the transition from childhood to adulthood; their characters realise that once you grow up, you have to fill in a lot of blanks yourself.
The ending was brilliant and incorporated themes relating to the closeness of nature. I loved the references to water, the flower pot and the beach-like netting that decorated the stage. Although the fate of Fionn and Fiadh’s mother was carried physically into the water of Sligo, one does wonder which aspects of both childhoods, and the stories that these characters told, were real at all. The intimate stage of the New Theatre was a perfect match for the play. Though it contained moments of seriousness and moments of grief, I came away from It Is Good We Are Dreaming appreciating the little things that life has to offer.