THE ABSENCE OF WOMEN
by Owen McCafferty.
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 8 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 4pm & 21 Sept, 5 Oct 2pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7328 1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 15 September.
Coming as it does from the Lyric Theatre Belfast, I thought this was going to be another traumatic account of embattled Northern Ireland politics.
Not a bit. I should have known with Owen McCafferty that is not his way. Instead this beguilingly personal and tragic two-hander takes us into the hearts and minds of two lonely Irish navvies at the end of their lives.
Through cups of tea, their talk is etched with yearnings for what might have been, the agonies of exile, its isolation, consequences of heavy drinking and the acres of undergrounds and roads built by them. Ciaran McIntyre’s grizzled Iggy keeps repeating a litany of stations “Angel, Angel”, as if either trying to remember something or insisting on his possession in the construction of them.
At once a homage and a tribute to these forgotten men – where would English road and rail infrastructure be without them? – McCafferty shows us the cost in a bewitching, almost music-hall and ultimately tragic light that has something of Beckett’s two tramps from Waiting for Godot about it, and something of the memory play.
Peter Gowen’s Gerry recalls the moment that might have led him to being married. At a local dance, he is chatted up by a nervous young girl. She asks him to dance,
but inhibition prevents him. The moment passes. And with it, suggests McCafferty, hope and the potential for happiness.
Similarly with McIntyre’s Iggy, whose fate is sealed with two words when, as an adolescent, he suddenly says to his best friend, “Kiss me”. His friend turns on him with fury. Iggy leaves his native land for good in bitterness and resentment.
And so we find them, years later, in Camden, on the wagon, mutually aggressive and caring of each other with Gerry desperate to return to Belfast one last time, Iggy adamantly refusing.
In one luminous moment, they dance together, the Kentucky Waltz. The incongruity and shock of it takes on an extraordinary beauty in Rachel O’Riordan’s fine production, dominated by piles of navvy spades. McCafferty has turned the seemingly ordinary into something heroically memorable.
Iggy: Ciaran McIntyre.
Gerry: Peter Gowen.
Dotty: Alice O’Connell.
John: Francis Mezza.
Director: Rachel O’Riordan.
Designer: Stuart Marshall.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound: Ivan Birthistle, Vincent Doherty.
Assistant director: Patsy Hughes.