This weeklong run at the Union Theatre of Ardent Theatre Company’s Beyond Ourselves is part of a much larger project. Ardent8 is designed to help young actors from outside the capital to overcome the barriers they face and the project’s ensemble, who all perform in this play, have taken part in workshops, been given mentoring and are being paid at Equity minimum rates.
The play itself, written and directed by Andrew Muir, faces head on the challenges faced by performing arts graduates. Beyond Ourselves is a surrealist comedy that often references Beckett and delights in playing on form. A group of actors take over a found space that is due to be demolished and have the intention of creating a piece of art, what that is doesn’t appear to matter, as long as art is created.
None of the characters have names, but its easy to see what kind of people they all are. There’s a leader (Jake Rayner Blair) who has an inkling of an idea for a play but no actual script, as the others look upon this cult-leader-like figure it becomes clear he’s just as lost as the rest of them.
Thoma O’Neill plays the sceptic of the group, always questioning their mentor and breaking the rules while Danielle Laurence and Annabel Worsfold question what it means to be a performer as well as their own self-worth.
Much of the comedy comes from Callum Diaz and Caoimhe Mackin, who both grasp the importance of timing in these situations. Latecomer, India Pignatiello switches up the dynamic and sees the rest of the group worried about what that means for their own place in this yet to be written production.
For all the uncertainty there remains sparks of optimism, particularly from Eddie Drummond’s character, who longs for the warmth of the spotlight and takes the mic to lead the one and only song in Beyond Ourselves.
The play does a good job of highlighting just how difficult it is to break into the profession, while at the same time dissecting the profession itself. Is it enough to just make art, or does an audience need to see it for it to count? Beyond Ourselves fires out question after pondering thought but it doesn’t provide any answers, and that’s not its intention, for this play it’s enough just to put it all out there.
Beyond Ourselves is an enjoyable short play that will appeal most to anyone who’s in the industry, but even audience members who are not will learn a thing or two about what it means to be an actor. The Ardent8 Project has produced a terrific ensemble of actors who have been given the chance to stand in a spotlight that probably doesn’t exist anywhere else.