by Deidre Kinahan.
Bush Theatre Shepherds Bush Green W112 8QD To 26 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8743 5050.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 March.
Finely-structured family drama where comedy turns in a moment.
Already almost sold-out (Thursday matinees currently the best bet), this production from County Meath’s Tall Tales Theatre and Solstice Arts Centre shows that, whatever’s happened to Ireland’s economy, its theatrical strength continues as ever. Deidre Kinahan’s play adopts well-honed ideas: the family meal that goes wrong, the return home of a family member that revives suppressed tensions, the introduction of a newcomer – in this case Nial’s English wife Ruth – who inadvertently disturbs the ashes of the past.
Each character is fully conceived by the playwright, what’s unsaid as powerful as what’s spoken. Teresa Lynch survives – just – on a cocktail of prescription drugs that allow a surface cheerfulness. One daughter has married the affable Dave, gaining a sort of normality when not tested too much in the family home, while Niamh (Maeve Fitzgerald, superb in her wary agitation from the start), ever-anxious, often sullen, battles guilt over the fateful childhood moment behind the Lynch family’s lives.
Teresa’s husband is dead, possibly having willed his own illness. Both Dave and, even more, Fin, slow-witted but amiable and keen on Niamh for all her tangled neuroses, are optimistic in contrast to the Lynch daughters. As Kinahan gradually assembles them, it’s clearly the Lynch women where worries reside. She establishes telling details – Teresa’s tired smile somehow corresponds to her giving up on food preparation and buying supermarket quiches.
Despite the fuses implanted in the situation, the big meal surrounding Nial’s return is a comic high-point, till suddenly doused by a well-intentioned remark. Then food just eaten regurgitates in Teresa, Nial’s mental balance is threatened, and the coming together turns into hasty departures. As things fall apart and the evening fizzles out, Kinahan ends on a suitably mundane remark.
Even the understated flashbacks (identified by tonal shifts in Moyra Darcy’s lighting) avoid showing what happened, leaving suggestion to be filled-in by later recollection that is deliberately not climactic. David Horan’s detailed, immaculately acted production has performances that combine the realistic gestures and cadences of family negotiations with individual personality, while Maree Kearns’ open kitchen set provides space and context for Kinahan’s well-structured story.
Niamh Lynch: Maeve Fitzgerald.
Fin White: Will Joseph Irvine.
Teresa Lynch: Deidre Donnelly.
Ciara Blake: Kate Nic Chonaonaigh.
Dave Blake: Karl Quinn.
Nial Lynch: Ronan Leahy.
Ruth Pigeon: Rebecca O’Mara.
Hilary Kelly: Aela O’Flynn.
Director: David Horan.
Designer: Maree Kearns.
Lighting: Moyra Darcy.
Sound: Alun Smyth.
Choreographer: Muirne Bloomer.
Costume: Elaine Chapman.