THE KINGDOM To 17 November.


by Colin Teevan.

Soho Theatre (Upstaris) 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 17 November 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 4pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Martin Franks 29 October.

A great monolith of a short play.
What a powerful, visceral, intense piece of drama this is. From the moment the romantic Irish folk music which greets us turns into a grey drone we know that we’re into a serious and unrelenting performance.

Colin Teevan’s play is a cleverly constructed, beautifully interwoven and gradually revealing dramatised narration of one man’s life. But at the same time it’s a portrayal of any poor, brutalised community, forced into emigration, breaking the rules to create the good life for the next generation. And then it is of course specifically Ireland – the Kingdom. But the ancient Greek references – including a great emotion-breaking Oedipal knot at the centre – elevate the piece to universal tragedy.

It is fabulously performed by the three actors of Three Legged Theatre Company. Only occasionally did the height of emotion feel false and require reining-in. Generally these were three strong pillars of an imposing theatrical edifice. Gary Lilburn is true, wise and deep. Owen O’Neill is damaged, frightening and ultimately tragically vulnerable. Anthony Delaney is passionate, charming and dangerously without boundaries.

And this is a tremendous piece of direction too. Lucy Pitman-Wallace(together with movement director Simon Pittman and sound designer Paul Dodgson) creates engaging aural and visual rhythms to mesmerise the audience into the vortex of the story. Which is not to say that there is not also beautiful patterning across time, gender and mood. And the tortuous contrasts created between youthful hope and love smashed against the forces of fate, violence and perversion are quite mind-spinning.

The staging of course reflects all this singular pulse. The natural almost monotone palette, the shaft-slant and yet not design-intrusive lighting and the tower of broken stone represent that relentless earth-bound, back-breaking repetition of the Irish navvy and any unskilled labourer’s lot, but also the relentless smash of the tragedy.

I would have loved to have been frightened more by the mass of stone and the sound of tool on rock – but maybe there were health and safety issues. The transformation of the pillar into other references at the end of the play is masterful.

Young Man: Anthony Delaney.
Man: Owen O’Neill.
Old Man: Gary Lilburn.

Director: Lucy Pitman-Wallace.
Designer: Jessica Curtis.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound/Composer: Paul Dodgson.
Movement: Simon Pittman.

2012-10-31 13:01:27

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