GRETA GARBO CAME TO DONEGAL
by Frank McGuinness.
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 20 February 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 4pm & 27 Jan, 10 Feb 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7328 1000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 January.
Star’s visit casts light on doings in Donegal.
Indeed she did. Frank McGuinness has history on his side, though he’s shifted the ice-empress of the silver screen’s Irish visit forward a decade to 1967. She’s brought by English artist Matthew Dover who hopes she’ll pursue her legendary quest to be left alone by buying his Donegal estate. He bought it off the improvident Hennessys, now cook and chauffeur in their former family home.
And History in his mind. While James doesn’t know whether to drive to Dublin or Belfast to collect Garbo, her journey back is threatened by a Civil Rights march, first stirrings of what would become the Troubles, with the two cities’ separate identities clearly marked-out.
Despite her Swedish certainties, Garbo (Caroline Lagerfelt delineates a complex character in whom image has been carefully moulded to character) becomes closer to the Hennessys than their employer ever does. Though he’s a necessary part of the pattern, he’s not quite so finely woven, perhaps why Daniel Gerroll’s camp command and flippancy remains somewhat ill-aligned with the rest of McGuinness’s creations.
Yet the other outsider, Matthew’s rough English partner, an ex-boxer, is the strong inarticulate type, hanging around with shades of a slightly murky past that finely defines the English presence. But it’s the Hennessys where sparks fly and bile flows, in internecine recriminations over the loss of their property.
Bitterness compacts any love or need in them as Garbo redefines their relationships, tipping the balance towards bright teenager Collette, whose determination to study medicine without owing anything to anyone also signals a new world coming.
McGuinness might have indicated more how this family ever owned such extensive property. But the resentments and vitriol in their lives develop vividly across the play. And Nicolas Kent’s production defines each one precisely at every moment. Michelle Fairley’s Paulie, seen at the opening pounding dough, apparently a hub for the family, is first among a clutch of fine-tuned performances.
Kitchens seem to suit McGuinness. Ten years ago Dolly West’s Kitchen gave a well-wrought complex of relationships between Irish and English, and his new play, set frequently in this Donegal kitchen, has equal strength.
Colette Hennessy: Lisa Diveney.
Paulie Hennessy: Michelle Fairley.
Sylvia Hennessy: Angeline Ball.
Harry Caulfield: Tom McKay.
James Hennessy: Owen McDonnell.
Matthew Dover: Daniel Gerroll.
Greta Garbo: Caroline Lagerfelt.
Director: Nicolas Kent.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Matthew Eagland.
Sound: Tom Lishman.
Choreographer: Nicola Traherne.
Dialect/Vocal coach: Tim Charrington.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant designer: Al Turner.