The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge.
Smock Alley Theatre, 7 Lower Exchange Street, County Dublin. To 5 August.
7.30 pm. Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2.30 pm.
Runs 120 mins, one interval. To Sun 05 08 12
Tickets: 00 3531 677 0014 www.smockalley.com
Review: Michael Paye 13 July 2012.
An enjoyable, energetic performance in the intimate confines of Ireland’s oldest theatre.
J. M. Synge is rightly considered one of the finest playwrights of the twentieth century. The Playboy of the Western World, which premiered in Ireland for the first time at the Abbey theatre in 1907, caused riots in a time of political turmoil. Synge would be dismissed as a Protestant writer who did not understand the inner workings of Catholic, rural Ireland, which many were desperately trying to create through national theatre. Despite such issues, The Playboy’s power lies not in its controversy, but in the inherent realism of the characters, plot, and politics which could elicit such strong responses at its opening on Saturday, 26 January, 1907.
Pegeen Mike looks all set to marry Shawn Keogh, a weak willed man, often referred to derisively as Shawneen (Little Shawn) by his likely wife. This plan is thrown into turmoil with the arrival of Christy Mahon, a man who claims to have killed his father. He becomes a local romantic hero, the measure of manhood and Pegeen’s love interest almost immediately. Christy’s mettle is put to the test as the story unfolds, and a keyhole view of this Mayo village is granted to the audience.
Muiris Crowley, playing Christy, delivers a performance of skill and liveliness. His energy leaps off the stage without becoming farcical, and he epitomises the romantic hero which these townspeople desire and create. Simon Stewart (Shawn Keogh) gives a comical performance. Amanda Coakley is a fine, strong-willed Pegeen Mike, while the sexual flirtation of the Widow Quinn is played up by Andy Crowe to wonderful effect. The entire cast is strong, and shows a depth of understanding in language, accents, and story.
Occasionally, the carnavalesque, pantomime atmosphere goes somewhat awry and is more a distraction than an addition to the performance. In particular, when Christy first arrives and relates his story to Michael James, well-played by John Burke who does one of the finest drunken belches I have ever heard. Shawn Keogh’s fearful jittering distracts from Pegeen Mike’s reaction to Christy in particular. That being said, such moments are well balanced by the romance between Pegeen and Christy, and Pegeen’s final words are delivered with an air of solemnity which suits the end of the play.
It’s clear that director Patrick Sutton knows his project well. Along with the players’ great understanding and performance, this is a wonderfully witty, energetic show well worth seeing.
Amanda Coakley: Pegeen Mike.
Muiris Crowley: Christy Mahon.
Simon Stewart: Shawn Keogh.
Andy Crowe: Widow Quinn.
John Burke: Michael James.
Paul Elliot: Jimmy Farrell.
John Delaney: Philly Cullen.
Leah Minto: Susan Brady.
Elizabeth McGrath: Honor Blake.
Caroline Power: Sara Tansey.
Donal Hurley: Old Mahon.
Director: Patrick Sutton.
Producer: Clíona Dukes.
Costume Design: Janis Martin.
Set & Lighting Design: Marcus Costello.
Stage Manager: Tara Conlon.
Technical Manager: David Halpin.