The Dry House by Eugene O’Hare. Marylebone Theatre, 35 Park Road, London NW1 to 6 May 2023. 4****. William Russell.

Chrissie is a drunk. Her sister Claire wants her to go to the Dry House one more time. Set in Newry, County Down Eugene O’Hare’s play is a moving account of how alcoholism can affect a family. Mairead McKinley gives a powerful performance as Chrissie demanding just one last drink from Claire played Kathy Kiera Clarke before she makes up her mind whether she will go or not. Meanwhile Chrissie’s daughter Heather bursts in on them from her ice dancing class during what turns out to be a long day’s journey into perhaps the light. She is, as the interruptions persist, we realise a ghost from Chrissie’s past having been killed in a car crash.

The cast have not quite got to grips with the acoustic of the theatre, however, and at times it was clear that not all of the audience was getting the words – the Irish accents did not help although they are not all that strong. But from the laughter, and some of it is funny, it was clear that some sections of the audience were getting it, others were not. That should, however, change as they settle down. Chrissie has problems, and how they affected her turn out to be alarming and very sad – but look at that pitch dark corridor leading from her living room. It matters. Will the daylight ever break in?

Maybe as a director O’Hare is too close to his play, and he is lucky with his cast but for all its power and that interesting ending this production does not quite draw one into Chrissie’s world. Given the letterbox proscenium the intriguingly lit set works well but one does feel that the sofa and chairs would have been looking at the fireplace and not the audience. The room, instead of being claustrophobic and cluttered with the detritus of a drunk, becomes remarkably spacious, a wilderness in which Chrissie, curtains never drawn back, sits knocking back that one last can of beer until finally disclosing the depths she has sunk to in her grief and alcoholism. A higher proscenium shape would have enhanced things immensely – looking at what is the equivalent of a cinemascope screen really is visually bad. The theatre stage is a problem in itself but the designer’s solution to create the letter box does not work for me at least. That isn’t to say this is not a play worth seeing and it does contain three outstanding performances.

Claire: Kathy Kiera Clarke.

Chrissy: Mairead McKinley.

Heather: Carla Langley.

Director: Eugene O’Hare.

Designer: Niall Mckeever.

Lighting Designer: Robbie Butler.

Sound Designer: Esther Kehinde Ajayi.

Movement Director: Michela Meazza.

Production photographs: Manuel Harlan.

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