The House by Tom Murphy
Abbey Theatre, 26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1. To 14 July.
7.30 pm. Saturday Matinee 2 pm. Sign Language interpreted performance, 5 July. Captioned Performance, 7 July.
Runs 190 mins, one interval.
Tickets: 00 3531 8787 222 www.abbeytheatre.ie
Review: Michael Paye 15 June 2012.
Complex, powerful tale of emigration in the 1950s given resonance today by all-star cast.The summer has returned, and the Irish emigrant workers have come back from jobs in America and Britain for their annual visit. Fresh with new clothes, accents, and even, for some, families, they represent but a fraction of men forced to leave their home to find a better future. They are quick-tempered, jocular, and troublemaking, and we don’t need to know too much about their past to realise that the present difficulties they face as exiles, both abroad and upon their returns home, have heightened their aggression and sense of displacement. Goldfish’s comment “I don’t know where I am in this town” could be applied to any one of these men; but Christy’s refusal to accept this home truth leads to a horrible, inevitable catastrophe. His belief that “this place will never change,” his “heaven and earth,” represents his desire to return to a utopia that only exists for those who have left Ireland, an unreal memory.
The set is marred by a strange decision to have a still image of trees overhanging the stage, which is wholly unnecessary. Otherwise, what the Abbey can do with the stage is shown off well as multiple sets are fluidly switched between each other. The whole performance is well directed and the fight scenes are particularly worthy of mention.
Declan Conlon does a wonderful job as Christy, the returning emigrant who longs to protect the house that seems to represent to him a time when people were willing to look after one another. He carries off a jocular gait, and his aggressive outbursts are realistic and shocking. Equally, Catherine Walker does a fine job as Susanne, shamelessly exhibitionist, flirtatious, a girl destined for trouble. Lorcan Cranitch brings to the part of Kerrigan an attractive mixture of wisdom and resignation, but these are only three of a very strong cast, all worthy of their parts.
The music sets the tone nicely for the performance. Often, in theatre, music can sound rather incongruous, an unhelpful distraction. In this case, however, it helps the audience empathise with the characters and seems to match the air of tension which runs through the play. Equally, the lighting is used on various occasions to evoke gloom, hope, and a host of other tropes, which could have easily appeared hackneyed, but is in fact carried off with grace and skill.
Certainly, with current emigration rates from Ireland as high as the peak numbers in the 1950s, this play, originally performed in 2000, has grown in relevancy, and this production is well executed.
Eleanor Methuen: Mother.
Cathy Belton: Marie.
Declan Conlon: Christy.
Niamh McCann: Louise.
Aonghus óg McAnally: Jimmy.
Frank Laverty: Peter.
Karl Shiels: Goldfish.
Lorcan Cranitch: Kerrigan.
Bosco Hogan: Tarpey.
Darragh Kelly: Bunty
Catherine Walker: Susanne
Director: Annabelle Comyn.
Designer: Paul O’Mahony.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound: Philip Stewart.
Movement Director: Sue Mythen.
Fight Co-ordinator: Brendan Condren.