By Cathy Lee
The brilliant “All The World’s A Cage” engages and grips an audience from the beginning. On entering the small secluded dimly lit made-to-do theatre at “The Teachers Club” Dublin 1, the actors we had not yet been introduced to were already present on the background of the stage. This set a relaxed sort of mood into the air as the stage was at ground level, we relaxed into the comfortable couch-like audience seats and all I could experience was the feeling of curiosity the entertainment to come, and I wasn’t to be disappointed by this expectation! I would wholeheartedly describe this play as another success for the fantastic playwright and star Niamh Ryan, who plays “Jill”.
The very limited stage space was essential and fitting for the story. This one room setting exposed the character of the lives that the three young women held together, tightly bound in a not exactly cluttered scenario but one of great importance we are to learn to each of them, particularly “Tina” – played by Marie Hegarty. We discover each of these young women, graduated from college in Galway in their early 20s, as we watch the hilarious lack of interaction unfold between the ladies and the driven TV License inspector. We later discover that maybe indeed that this authoritarian figure isn’t the only one of his kind in their lives. Be it boyfriends, co-workers or closed-minded directors – these young women are really up against it.
The placement of individual striking lines in the play were exceptional for me as they were very captivating and allowed me to further my belief in the talents of Niamh Ryan as a script writer. Most of the comedy was physical at the beginning of the play, from yoga fitness moves of “Jill” to exaggerated facial expressions of “Amy” and the improper placement of some lemons and limes. But as the themes of feminism and power in the play further, lines from Tina and of course Jill, played by Niamh Ryan were hard hitting and to the point.
I found the characters to be strong with each possessing a distinct individuality and their own world view, strongly expressed at differing points in the play. Niamh Ryan as “Jill” and Katie Reid as “Amy” were headstrong and often outrageous bringing in heavily the humour and dominance into the scenes but I feel too that “Tina” played a distinct role in balancing out the possibly deeper strength of characters in the acting of Niamh Ryan and Katie Reid.
The play addressed a form of modern day millennial message or struggle and a strong feminine message which broke down barriers of fear in that of being a woman, the restrictions and draw backs found that we see existing here as the story unfolds. Through strong will and true togetherness in friendship, the girls overcome their challenges and the energy within the play can be felt, through the honesty of humour and the true sense of belief in one another as women and as good friends.
Although the play only held one setting due to the limited stage space available, the actors made this work through their use of physical space to depict time passing and also the excellent use of selective lighting present was visually important. Props were used to a good affect, from the weapons to the couch – which both united and separated the girls at different stages. I think this also added some colour to the play in a different way than the strong comedy did, as sometimes the atmosphere was dreary as the sense of hopelessness became present for the characters at their current and somewhat fixed reality.
Niamh Ryan is clearly a multi-talented young woman, with excellent script writing skills and is a capable actress herself included. Having seen another Caca Dana production “Eternal Youth” before,” All The World’s A Cage” showed me a new side to the writing of Niamh Ryan and I think her talents are very diverse with the potential for a vast future to explore, which audiences of all kinds should enjoy.
I wish the team at Caca Dana Theatre company all the best for their ventures stateside and I look forward to their future productions, wherever they may be. You can check out their website here for further information: https://www.cdtheatreco.com/