by Conor McPherson.
Southwark Playhouse (The Vault) Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 18 February 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 January.
Stories expertly told in finely-crafted play.
Though a second viewing (Conor McPherson’s 2001 play of interwoven monologues by men of different ages was first seen in London at the Royal Court Theatre) doesn’t make clear the reason for its title – the play, and its wooden slats and boxes where the three actors sit to deliver their stories, is said to be “set in a theatre” – there is a sense of voyage and lack of control over the lives shown here.
As young Kevin says, maybe there are only two souls shared amongst everyone, one for those who fight, the other for those who acquiesce. There’s a noted poetic content carried by the word “souls”, which sounds differently from merely dividing people into two types. And a search for the soul, for a meaning and a resting-place in life, might be seen in this trio of stories which, while telling of separate characters’ experiences, refract off one another.
All represent an attempt at independence; all end in embarrassment and compromise. In the midst of life, Dermot aptly suffers most, crushing dismissal from a high-powered job he should never have had and a reminder by his wife of how she picked him for his eternal loneliness, and demands acceptance, now she’s no longer lovely, that both must be satisfied with their compromise of a life.
Ardal O’Hanlan moves through this story, recreating Dermot’s excitement and disappointment, while Andrew Nolan retains the fiery energy of youth through his own account of leaving home and meeting members of the local music scene, and John Rogan brings the weariness of age and a storyteller’s technique of holding attention by unusual phrasing, several times catching a first word of his new sentence in with the remains of its predecessor. Eyes closing repeatedly in concentration, his Joe clutches at past and recent experience, sudden bursts of enthusiasm showing through.
Tom Attenborough’s production rides the tide of McPherson’s stories, which artfully mirror their companions’ emotional parabolas, coming to final, if indeterminate, rest alongside each other. All three performances catch the various phases of experience while remaining controlled and, without self-indulgence, skilfully maintaining narrative momentum.
Kevin: Andrew Nolan.
Dermot: Ardal O’Hanlan.
Joe: John Rogan.
Director: Tom Attenborough.
Designer: Francesca Reidy.
Lighting: Joshua Carr.
Sound: Victoria Wilkinson.
Composer: Ed Rex.
Dialect coach: Maeve Diamond.