by John Patrick Shanley.
Ustinov Studio (Theatre Royal) Sawclose BA1 1ET To 16 May 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 April.
Tough but gentle tale from the old country.
Is it with coming from a small country so many Irish dramatists set plays on farms near small communities? The Playboy of the Western World, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Weir are among significant pieces with a nature determined by the mix of lone existence with a nearby small community. Now American John Patrick Shanley finally, in his sixties, refers back to his family’s origins in a play set on a farm near Killucan, a village near Westmeath County Town Mullingar.
There’s a father and son, a mother and daughter. And they own adjoining land, cause enough old Tony Reilly thinks for the next generation to marry. The action – or inaction – starts after a funeral, with Tony, granite-firm, emotionally terse as the grass his sheep and cows keep cropped. Anthony isn’t the only local to be named after his father in this slow-moving society.
James Hayes evokes a lifetime of hard work and narrow preoccupations in his slow talk, delayed responses, gloomy prognostications and minimal expression. There’s something of that in Carol Macready’s Aoife; though on the surface she’s cheerier there’s a guarded quality and sense of calculation. If, near their lives’ ends, the older folk plough a familiar furrow, the idea of change continues taking its time when the young inherit their earth.
Not a lot happens, leaving Owen McDonnell and Deirdre O’Kane exposed without the experience and subtlety Hayes and Macready bring to the characters’ compacted inwardness. Yet, they do well enough with characters who are past their youth, O’Kane bringing an almost casual reinterpretation to a childhood incident that shows how parents can misunderstand children, while resetting the course for the relationship.
That incident, between the two, took place on the Muldoons’ strip of land. Little use itself, it scuppers the Reillys’ territory. Only a reconciliation through love can make either party’s territory useful. It’s such a touch that distinguishes Shanley’s writing. That, and the way both have to fight themselves to bring themselves together, as Anton Chekhov’s Varya and Lopakhin failed to do. The terrain here may be no Cherry Orchard but the end bears fruit.
Anthony Reilly: Owen McDonnell.
Tony Reilly: James Hayes.
Aoife Muldoon: Carol Macready
Rosemary Muldoon: Deirdre O’Kane.
Director: Sam Yates.
Designer: Richard Kent.
Lighting: David Plater.
Sound/Composer: Giles Thomas.
Voice coach: Richard Ryder.
Assistant director: Sadie Spencer.