by T C Murray.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 19 March 2012.
Sun-Mon 7.30pm. sold out Mat 19 March 2pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 March.
Troubles down on the farm given due weight.
Irish plays are about more than politics, of course, and this 1924 drama by Cork-born teacher and dramatist Thomas Cornelius Murray is simply a story of family relationships.
Middle-aged Owen Keegan, once champion playboy of the Hurling world, is reinvigorated when he falls in love with attractive young Nance Desmond, an aspiring dress-designer; she’s later seen wearing one of her creations, while the Singer sewing machine’s ever at the ready.
Owen’s son Michael is keen on her too, but not his stern-mannered, suspicious sister Ellen – especially when Owen proposes and Nancy accepts marriage. The scene is set for a number of familiar scenarios: Nance really loves Michael; she doesn’t love Owen, but was merely impressed by him for a time. She didn’t love him at all but was calculating to get her hands on an older man’s money.
Or, none of the above, as Michael’s desire tortures him, Ellen constricts her life with sour hate and distrust, and Owen is tortured by the hostility, which would be greater if his children knew he intended leaving his farm to Nancy, with merely an allowance and lodgings for them in the family home.
His attempts to repeat youthful prowess outdoors injures him, and an inopportune entry (rather unconvincing-seeming, as he has made his way painfully from bed for the purpose) gives him the impression he has been betrayed by wife and son. Yet the play’s focus is on the beautiful young Nancy’s love for this older man.
It’s builds slowly in the first half. After the interval, plot proceeds more speedily, though Murray has written a slow-burning drama of good people under pressure, rather than a web of intrigue. Veronica Quilligan’s production rediscovers this rare quality, though the limited staging facilities (it’s performed on the set of a different Finborough show) and a possible concern it will seem too simple for modern tastes, lead to a pace that sacrifices the slow sense of endurance.
Still, Eoin Geoghegan shows Owen’s self-certain force, Aoife Keegan a tight-featured resentment, while Valene Kane moves from her happy manner to the reluctant inevitability of physical desire.
Ellen Keegan: Aoife McMahon.
Nance Desmond: Valene Kane.
Owen Keegan: Luke Hayden.
Michael Keegan: Eoin Geoghegan.
Mrs Desmond: Maureen Bennett.
Tom Furlong: Dylan Kennedy.
Molley Hurley: Aoife Lennon.
Morgan Keegan: Frank Fitzpatrick.
Director: Veronica Quilligan.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Miguel Vicente.
Sound: Edward Lewis.
Costume: Sophia Anastasiou.