by Tom Murphy.
Oxford Playhouse Beaumont Street OX1 To 25 August 2012.
22 Aug 7.30pm, 24 Aug 8pm. Conversations on a Homecoming Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
21, 23 Aug 7.30pm. A Whistle in the Dark Runs 2hr 35min One interval,
20 Aug 7.30pm, 23 Aug 2.30pm Famine Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
DruidMurphy (all 3 plays) 25 Aug 1.30pm.
TICKETS: 01865 305305.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 August.
A final English week for fine Irish dramas.
Irish comings and goings, not as a trilogy, but written over the years by Tom Murphy. In the early 1970s, Michael returns from America in a play that’s just what it says, Conversations on a Homecoming, while the family follows another Michael to Coventry, where he’s married to a local woman with very different expectations of family life, even before the sixties have more than just begun, in A Whistle in the Dark. And in Famine, the largest–scale, deep, dark brooding play that ends the three-play ‘DruidMurphy’ days, the ‘voluntary’ emigrations start, with agricultural workers being shipped dangerously to Canada during the 1846 potato blight. It was a method of dispersing potential trouble and keeping down the taxes of the wealthy.
Each has its own style, Conversations perhaps the closest to other Murphy plays, where the ebb and flow of talk (oiled by multiple refills of glasses in the local pub where a faded photo of Jack Kennedy still hangs) seems to drift without linear development while building its own tide through the characters’ interaction. By contrast, the earliest, A Whistle in the Dark, sees a young writer who’s still developing, maintaining something closer to the external action and events usual in drama. But the tribal loyalty of the sons who’ve travelled to see off an enemy clan, the myth-making of their Dada, sophisticated enough to hide brutality behind a polite veneer, and the young son being sucked-into violence are Murphy themes awaiting his developing dramaturgy.
Famine combines events with Murphy’s contemplative depth. The roots of violence, emerging first in internecine argument among the land-workers, parallel the rotten potatoes they are initially too superstitious to examine. It’s a piece that comes close to the political intensity of Edward Bond in his best work, each action and character individually sharp yet contributing to the overall picture.
Galway’s Druid Theatre is at its finest here. The overall dark, the sustained quiet as the wealthy stand around a table arguing over what to do while dying bodies leak in from the edges, the descent of Brian Doherty’s upright John Connor into starvation and violence after his long moral stand, and refusal to be moved abroad in an interviewe where even the most well-intentioned of the rich won’t have the peasant breathe in his direction, are startling amid the sustained gravity and concentration of Murphy’s writing and Garry Hynes’ finely-acted production.
It’s a company show with no weak link. Niall Buggy is predictably imposing as Whistle’s self-esteeming Dada, though his finest hour comes as the Catholic bishop facing condemnation of his religion even as he socially fits with the English landlords of Famine. Aaron Monaghan gives a sulky individuality to the violent Harry in Whistler, the brother less bone-headed than others, and a fizzing fury to Famine’s Mickeleen, proudly defiant on his crutches.
As if making the point that the words go mainly to the men, each play opens with a woman silently stood or seated, waiting. A fitting start for Murphy’s richly thoughtful dramas.
Conversations on a Homecoming:
Anne: Beth Cooke.
Tom: Garrett Lombard.
Liam: Aaron Monaghan.
Missus: Marie Mullen.
Junior: Rory Nolan.
Michael: Marty Rea.
Peggy: Eileen Walsh.
A Whistle in the Dark:
Dada: Niall Buggy.
Des: Gavin Drea.
Hugo: Garrett Lombard.
Harry: Aaron Monaghan.
Mush: Michael Glenn Murphy.
Iggy: Rory Nolan.
Michael: Marty Rea.
Betty: Eileen Walsh.
Father Daly/1st Policeman/Villager: Niall Buggy.
Mr Simmington/Villager: Edward Clayton.
Maeve Connor: Beth Cooke.
John Connor: Brian Doherty.
Liam Dougan: Gavin Drea.
Malachy O’Leary/Villager: Garrett Lombard.
Mickeleen O’Leary: Aaron Monaghan.
Mother: Marie Mullen.
Mark Dineen/Justice of the Peace: Michael Glenn Murphy.
Keener/Villager: Treasa Ni Mhiollain.
Captain Shine/2nd Policeman/Villager: Rory Nolan.
Dan O’Dea: John Olohan.
Brian O’Riordan/Clancy: Frank O’Sullivan.
Father Horan/Villager: Marty Rea.
Dan’s Wife/Villager: Eileen Walsh.
Donaill Connor: Isaac O’Sullivan/Joseph Ward.
Director: Garry Hynes.
Designer: Francis O’Connor.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Composer: Sam Jackson.
Movement: David Bolger.
Costume: Joan O’Clery.
Fight director: Malcolm Ranson.
Dramaturg: Thomas Conway.
11-21 Sept 8pm Mat 15 Sept 3pm Everyman Palace Theatre Cork Whistle: 11, 13, 17, 19 Sept 8pm Mat 15 Sept 3pm; Conversations: 12, 1, 15, 18 ,20 Sept 8pm 021 450 1673 www.everymanpalace.com
24-25 8pm Clifden Town Hall Conversations 24 Sept 8pm; Whistle 25 Sept 8pm 091 442 730 www.clifdenartsweek.ie
27 Sept Halla Ronain Inis Mor
28 Sept Halla Naomh Eoin Inis Meain
2-13 Oct 7.30pm/3.30pm Gaiety Theatre Dublin
17-20 Oct 7.30pm; 1pm Eisenhower Theater, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Washington Conversations 17 Oct 7.30pm Whistle 18 Oct 7.30pm Famine 19 Oct 7.30pm DruidMurphy 20 Oct 1pm.
(202) 467-4600 www.kennedy-center.org