by Conor McPherson.
Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 5 November 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat 8, 23 Sept, 20 Oct 2pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 August.
Shining City in a resplendent revival.
Outside, the noise of Dublin traffic. But when the doors close ex-priest Ian’s apartment is cut-off, a place where the self-appointed therapist offers to sort out others’ lives while unable to resolve his own. Most of Conor McPherson’s play involves Ian with John, bereaved and guilty, recalling his wife and her red coat, plus his lover. Tactfully nudging on John’s account across a couple of sustained scenes, Ian’s also seen in the turmoil of a broken relationship with his wife, and an attempt at human contact through a rent-boy he brings home.
In the final scene, as he gives up, moving home, John brings him a present – a lamp for extra illumination – as thanks for Ian’s help. And after the quiet, apparently inconclusive parade of words, McPherson ends with a physical, visceral shock. As in his earlier play The Weir, the supernatural, as counterpart to psychological forces, takes on a life of its own.
The play’s heart, certainly in Zoë Waterman’s finely-controlled revival, are the main scenes between Ian and John. Robert Calvert captures the quietly troubled manner of someone unable to resolve the implications of his own behaviour, the rhythm of his language picking-up uncertainties and attempts to express the emotional force his past actions have for him. And Patrick Bridgeman reinforces these, his often silent observations and quiet, almost imperceptibly interpolations providing John with discreet encouragement.
Around these scenes, Ian’s louder confrontation with Sarah Groarke’s Neasa seems intrusive, but it’s a necessary contrast: the physician who cannot heal himself. As is the scene with young Lawrence, given tactful precision by Adam O’Brian, his quietly indecisive professionalism providing a surprise refraction of Ian’s role with John; the psychological turned physical in the all-round need for consolation.
Nothing’s conclusive here; Neasa and Laurence appear once and are heard of no more. John seems to have recovered but there remains something temporary and hesitant about this, even before the final image, while Ian is moving out and on, somewhere, for some reason. (here, he’s one of the worst packers ever), as Waterman’s production conveys through its sustained tone and finely-graduated performances.
Ian: Patrick Bridgeman.
John: Robert Calvert.
Neasa: Sarah Groarke.
Laurence: Adam O’Brian.
Director: Zoë Waterman.
Designer: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Andrew J Lindsay.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.