IRISH BLOOD, ENGLISH HEART
by Darren Murphy.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 2) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 21 May 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 May.
Family complexes in a south London garage.
Another fine mess on a fringe stage (this production started at Southwark’s Union Theatre), by which designer Francesca Rodriguez indicates a mess in the characters’ lives. An astonishing amount by the end of Darren Murphy’s family drama – one without an Irish accent, except when one of the Sweeney brothers voices their dead father’s words.
Dad regarded London as home, his badge of honour being a taxi-driver’s qualification – sure sign of knowing the capital’s ways intimately. But he left his sons different emotional inheritances, helping lead one to material success, the other to a dead end. So there’s an emotional entanglement between brother, brother and wife, financial needs being frustrated by pride.
A sawn-off taxi stands to one side of this south London location, which is backed by a map of Southwark and Lambeth – a reminder of the importance driving’s had for both father and Con, and its importance in Con and Peggy’s marriage. The map also implies the value of a home over a life peering through airplane windows on the international success trail.
More specific comment would risk giving way too much in a play where character relations and the truth about the dead man are gradually revealed. Murphy has plenty to reveal, coming close to overturning his story as skeletons hurtle out of the cupboard in the second act – where, after the long build-up of act one, the door to the past flies open.
His main irony is that the unsuccessful brother has provided his soar-away sibling with the means to success, and has an unused skill of his own. Caitriona McLaughlin’s finely-acted production has performances that restrain any tendency to absurdity in the amount of revisionist revelations and passages of recollection (which among other things leaves Carolyn Tomkinson silent on stage for a long section), while there’s a lively wild card in Anthony, the non-family member, who provides one piece of urgent action as the family have to regard someone other than themselves.
For all there are imperfections, it’s hard to dislike a piece that handles so much material with such a considerable degree of skill.
Con Sweeney: Ian Groombridge.
Peggy Sweeney: Carolyn Tomkinson.
Anthony Kane: Oliver Gilbert.
Ray Suede: Howard Teale.
Director: Caitriona McLaughlin.
Designer: Francesca Rodriguez.
Lighting: Phil Spencer Hunter.
Sound: Bertram Knappitsch.
Movement: Clare McKenna.
Assistant director: Kanika Clayton.