Riders to the Sea by J M Synge, The Pot of Broth by W B Yeats, The Travelling Man by Lady Gregory.
Pentameters Theatre 28 Heath Street NW3 6TE (entrance in Oriel Place) To 30 August 2015.
Tue-Sat 8pm Sun 5pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7435 3648.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 August.
Three brief gems from the Emerald Isle.
Hampstead’s Pentameters has recently taken its programming towards Irish drama, where the poetry is metred-out not in lines but in richness of language. London Irish Theatre is working with the theatre on an autumn of rarities. Of the three writers whose brief plays make up this short evening, one was a major poet by any standards, another a writer whose honed prose has the beauty of verse. Then there’s Lady Gregory.
An aristocratic member of the English Ascendancy in Ireland, she had the distinction of having her family home burned-down in the 1920s. Years before she’d fallen in love with Irish traditions and literature, becoming a vital figure in the Irish Literary Theatre for which she wrote one-act plays, including the final part of this triple-bill.
All three are set in rural areas, with two involving a traveller calling and asking for help. Her visitor receives short shrift here, and only after his departure does the parsimonious Mother realise the true identity of the person she’s rejected.
The story’s different in The Pot of Broth, credited to W B Yeats, but apparently with Lady Gregory involved too. A very earth-bound Tramp (made female here for casting convenience) exploits Sibby’s naivety to extract a free meal by combining the woman’s credulity over a supposedly magic stone with a magician’s distraction technique to steal Sibby’s food in front of her face.
Things open with the best-known play, J M Synge’s Riders to the Sea a compressed tragedy which unwraps rather than unfolds. Bartley goes to sea, just as a package of what turns-out to be his brother Michael’s clothes are brought in, proving Michael was the man already reported drowned. As the younger women keep the bad news from their Mother, it becomes clear Bartley too has drowned, last of the many men the family’s lost to the sea.
Director John Dunne has clear sympathy for all these plays. The comedy of Broth is muffled by a shortage of props to show how much the tramp is artfully snaffling. The serious pieces are better served, Lady Gregory’s piece being a valuable rediscovery.
Riders to the Sea
Maura: Fiona McGahren.
Nora: Victoria Otter.
Cathleen: Clare McGrath.
Bartley: Paul Stafford.
The Pot of Broth
Tramp: Fiona McGahren.
Sibby: Victoria Otter.
John: Paul Stafford.
The Travelling Man
Mother: Fiona McGahren.
Daughter: Victoria Otter.
Traveller: Paul Stafford.
Director: John Dunne.