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Freddo Bars and Cigars – a masterfully executed dive into anxiety and generational trauma  

Dead Cute’s debut production weaves an intensely relatable tale of dread and discontent. 

On a cold February night, a first production at the Smock Alley Theatre played to a receptive audience who demonstrated their appreciation with a standing ovation. 

Dead Cute, the theatre company behind the production, is a brand-new collective formed by a group of friends who met while studying at Dublin City University (DCU). Director Riain Condon and the rest of the Dead Cute crew have created an impressive first outing and prove to be one of the most interesting productions to come out of Smock Alley Theatre’s Scene + Heard festival. 

The front entrance of the Smock Alley Theatre is located in Temple Bar. Image: Jake Mc Laughlin

Freddo Bars and Cigars, promoted on their Instagram as a “complex examination of our inner workings and the nuances that lie in the cracks between the way we see things and the way things actually are,” proves to be a hilarious but deeply introspective examination of the millennial zeitgeist. 

The show examines three central characters, unsatisfied with life reflecting on their past and their expectations for the future, revealing a set of deeply troubled characters slowly succumbing to time. The principal characters, denominated by numbers 1-3, struggle to handle their deep-seated restlessness, each attempting to cope through various methods, all unsuccessful. By the story’s end, each character has revealed their innermost fear and resentment. 

Kate Gurren puts in an excellent performance as the character One, whose bitter outbursts on lost promises and economic injustice are one of many highlights. She shares the stage with Kate Brady playing Two and Cathal O’Rourke as Three, who also put in exceptional portrayals of their respective characters. Brady’s somber musings on anxiety produce some of the most engaging moments in the story along with O’Rourke’s eccentric and comedic demeanor which creates a vivid depiction of a repressed individual masking his true feelings.  

It is not just O’Rourke who brings humour to the narrative, each character brings their own sense of wit to their monologues, one stands out being Gurren’s character’s anecdote of attempting to buy a cigar in Tesco, a story as self-deprecating as it is bitter: “He looked at me as if I’d asked him to sellotape eleven Silk Cut Purples’ into a tube.”

The actors disappear into the narrative to become tangible and flawed human beings who you cannot help but feel a profound sense of empathy for, with natural delivery that adds an authenticity to each character, whose stream of consciousness is brief but detailed. The characters, although united in their shared difficulty, are wholly isolated, never to engage with each other or the audience, their cries for help lost in the solitude they inhabit. 

The main theatre of the Smock Alley prior to being prepared for Freddo Bars and Cigars. Image: Jake Mc Laughlin

Each actor makes the most of minimal props, each weaving between a modest table, an armchair and a collection of Freddo bars wistfully flowing from a wire mesh bin, engaging with their space fluidly with eccentric gestures that add much more to their performances. A particular focus is given to a ticking clock, alluding to the story’s overarching theme of time. Although minor it felt somewhat obvious and uninspired as a narrative device but is not present enough to seriously affect one’s engagement with the show as a whole.  

It fits a great deal into its relatively brief runtime of 25 minutes, each character’s woes are adequately explored but not fully uncovered, with writing that would give the impression that these characters could monologue for hours about their misgivings. 

It cannot be denied that this narrative will most likely appeal to the millennial generation, a cohort infamously known for their disaffection and disenfranchisement, and the story is well aware of this. Gurren’s character’s fears are rooted in an economic disparity between her and the generations that have come before. However, this is not to say the show is inaccessible to both younger and older audiences. It may serve as an empathetic window into the lives of a generation you’ve failed to understand, or perhaps a grim look into a possible future. The story, although based around characters of a certain age group, is deeply human and has a distinct universal value.  

This theme of older vs younger generations is certainly one of the most prominent not just within the narrative but with the title itself, Freddo Bars and Cigars, two objects with vastly different age associations. In the words of Sally Rooney, a writer well known to millennials “Aren’t we unfortunate babies – to be born when the world ended? After that, there was no chance for the planet, and no chance for us.” 

The story is not simply a pity parade of individuals expressing their anger, each character reflects on what has brought them to this point in their lives, fully aware of what has caused their current predicament but that in no way helps them solve it.  If there is one thing the story makes abundantly clear, it’s that simply discussing your problems isn’t going to solve them, whether it’s in a self-help journal or in an oration to an unseen audience.  

A story of disaffected youth is by no means breaking new ground, but Freddo Bars and Cigars tells its story so thoughtfully and with such wit that it transforms into a beautifully crafted insight into the mind of a generation.  

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