Last week 2Paragraphs was lucky enough to attend the opening night of Tribes at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. Nina Raine’s play is both hilarious and heartbreaking, a comedy of manners that pokes fun at a certain sort of dysfunctional suburban family (cultured, creative, and caustic: read snobbish) and an incisive examination of exclusion. Tribes is a play about communication and miscommunication, and director Oonagh Murphy finds clever ways in the set and sound designs to explore how people talk a lot but rarely listen to each other. Listening is at the heart of the piece, of course, as it is about deafness.
Alex Nowak is an actor and advocate for the deaf community, and he commands attention when he’s onstage (in spite of or because of the fact that the other actors are ignoring him.) This is a play which challenges society’s smug, supposed tolerance of difference, while also highlighting prejudice within the deaf community (those born deaf are somehow ‘better’ than those going deaf.) Tribes is an ensemble production, and Fiona Bell, Gavin Drea, Clare Dunne, Nick Dunning – who you might recognize from his award-winning performance as Anne Boleyn’s father in The Tudors – and Gráinne Keenan equally deserve praise. The reviews of the new production have been glowing, and with good reason. Tribes is unmissable. It runs until November 11th.