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Review- Sophia = (Wisdom): The Cliffs: its existential and unorthodox qualities are not for everyone

By Paul Kiely


Sophia = (Wisdom): The Cliffs

By Richard Foreman

Directed by Patrick Kennedy

A Patrick Kennedy Phenomenological Production

New Theatre

King Street, Newtown


Season: 10 – 27 Jan 2024   Bookings:

               Duration: 120 minutes approx (including interval)


For those who like the unconventional, Sophia = (Wisdom): The Cliffs is heaven-sent. Promoted as “Part dada, slapstick comedy, part philosophical vaudeville interrogation into the human psyche and fully a production of the true avant-garde”.

I couldn’t have put together a better word-salad myself.

Written by American playwright Richard Foreman, the play falls into a theatrical genre which is hard to judge by traditional means.

It asks the audience to drop all expectations of structure, context and meaning. We are to immerse ourselves into a strange world where sounds and sights are contradicted by our conventional understandings.

The best thing to do is ‘go with the flow’ and cast your search for meaning to the wind!

A clue to what will unfold is in the title. Better if it had simply been called ‘A Journey Into The Unknown’.

There are many things to digest during the play. Foreman’s storytelling uses a narrator and overhead screen which projects statements and information about what is occurring on stage. It may say things like “Only assertion is interesting” or “the workers have taken over the houses and the people who are not workers don’t like it”.

The narrator speaks in a slow monotone. Dialogue is sparse and often lacks relevance.

If there is a plot, you’ll need to pay attention or research the play beforehand.

There are six main characters: Max (Agustin Lamas), Hannah (Lara Kocsis), Ben (Luke Visentin), Rhoda (Kirsty Saville), Sophia (Beatrice McBride) and Mountain Climber (Izzy Azzopardi). Other cast are comprised of Factory Workers.

Rhoda and Max’s marriage is struggling. To invigorate new life, Rhoda invokes the spirit of Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom. A bizarre tale of mystical enchantment follows which forces Rhoda to make choices from their home on the Cliffs.

In contrast to the confusing nature of Richard Foreman’s play, the production quality under Patrick Kennedy’s direction was outstanding.

Just when the patience of the audience seemed tested, Kennedy’s creative team injected new interest using visuals, sound, costumes and clever staging techniques.

Colour was never absent. Flamboyant French aristocratic outfits and garish makeup was captivating. The sound technician was busy with various horns, music and effects scattered throughout the play.

Various dance routines made full use of the New Theatres generous stage. Fortunately, Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’ pumped some overdue energy into the play.

Characters were deliberately robotic thereby limiting the actors’ ability to freeform and shine.

Sophia = (Wisdom): The Cliffs is an acquired taste. It’s existential and unorthodox qualities are not for everyone.

However, go with an open mind and a thinking cap and be enlightened by this alternative art-form.


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