THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD
by J M Synge.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 29 August 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 August.
Tall tales in a small space are lively but latterly need room to breathe.
A hundred minutes of J M Synge non-stop is not a minute too long in Kalina Polinina’s production. It might even be a little too little. The three-part structure of Playboy is acknowledged by a mere moment’s let-up in the hectic (but never rushed) pace to mark the acts. Otherwise the evening is a non-stop interplay of characters and contrivances as two women – egged-on by local girls not really in the running – compete for the love of Christy Mahon.
He brings a note of danger and excitement in a life where drink is the only escape (the publican Mahon is away with the lads at Kate Cassidy’s wake, leaving his daughter Pegeen in charge of the shebeen) and Pegeen faces marriage to Christopher Logan’s comically cowardly Shawn. From a high corner of a distant place comes nervous young Christy, with the story of killing his father.
At the start Polinina’s cast spread mud across the rear wall, as if to smearPlayboy‘s poetic rural tradition (who do they think they are – Martin McDonagh?). Yet what follows is an unpretentious, clear-headed production that works excellently for the first third.
Comic moments are clearly pointed, while there’s youthful perception about Pegeen and Christy as they find new ways of feeling about themselves through attraction to each other. The central section fairs well enough, and it’s only in the last act with its sonorous ‘love duet’ that the production falls some way short.
It’s there the script demands most emotional intensity and technical complexity, which Polinina’s cast can’t fully provide. This final section also moves the plot on most surprisingly and the impact’s not quite so sharp as in the best productions.
But there are many virtues, not least the battle between Sophie Dickson’s quietly assertive Pegeen – Polinina shouldn’t have encouraged her final switch to a more outward, traditional tragic expression – and Natalie Radmall-Quirke’s Widow. It’s the performance of the show, a woman still young enough for marriage but with a sophisticated awareness – watchful, calculating, ever-ready to insinuate or sweep into position, and to explain or fight her way out of tight corners.
Old Mahon: Timothy Block.
Sara Tansey: Greer Dale Foulkes.
Pegeen Mike: Sophie Dickson.
Shawn Keogh: Christopher Logan.
Michael Flaherty: Tom Marshall.
Honor Blake: Pandora McCormick.
Jimmy Farrell: Barney McElholm.
Christopher Mahon: Ciaran O’Brien.
Widow Quinn: Natalie Radmall-Quirke.
Director: Polina Kalinina.
Designer/Costume: Emma Bailey.
Lighting/Sound: Jon Jewett.
Associate director: Lilac Yosiphon.