by Conor McPherson.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 11 December 2011.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 4 October.
A Play in Which Every Word Counts.
In Conor McPherson’s most evocative play, The Weir, a group of Irish villagers sit around a pub fire and scare themselves and a visitor from Dublin with tales of fairies, hauntings and intimations of the supernatural. Stereotypically `Oirish’, McPherson’s gift for conjuration however proves irresistible.
McPherson returns to this theme in his latest, The Veil. But intermixed with ideas of restless spirits from beyond communicating with today is also the clash of cultures between the ruling Anglo-Protestant landowners and the `colonised’, desperately impoverished locals.
The times they are a-turning and in amongst attempts to save a young girl from psychic experiences to do with her father’s suicide and visions of her own mortality is a powerful moment that stands as a metaphor for the beginnings of Irish self-determination as well as personally escaping the clutches of the past.
Not quite Translations (Brian Friel) or the richly rhetorical Irish sagas of Sebastian Barry, nor T S Eliot or J B Priestley in The Family Reunion and Time and the Conways mode, The Veil echoes some of all these in its exploration of Time as mutable, and Irish history.
It’s most vividly expressed through Jim Norton’s ebullient Reverend Berkeley – Christian and `Enlightenment’ believer in spirit as an all-encompassing divine – and his travelling companion, Adrian Schiller’s wonderfully over-excitable, laudanum-quaffing Charles Audelle. These two men descend on the fading household of English landowner Lady Lambroke to accompany her psychically-inclined daughter Hannah, to England to make a good marriage and pay-off mounting debts.
So far so good. McPherson’s own production is typically atmospheric with its flickering candles, fluttering curtains and subfusc lighting. Bríd Brennan, Caoilfhionn Dunne and Peter McDonald as Lady Lambroke’s Irish retainers create a vividly Chekhovian sense of a lived-in household.
The ending, with McDonald’s estate manager and Dunne’s maid departing for the New World, Hannah successfully removed to England and Audelle’s off-stage demise may be far too neat, and Rae Smith’s grandiose set too echoey for a play where every word counts. Still it remains a haunting enough snapshot of a future being forged from a damaged past.
Mrs Goulding: Bríd Brennan.
Mr Fingal: Peter McDonald.
Lady Madeleine Lambroke: Fenella Woolgar.
The Reverend Berkeley: Jim Norton.
Clare Wallace: Caoilfhionn Dunne.
Charles Audelle: Adrian Schiller.
Maria Lambroke: Ursula Jones.
Hannah Lambroke: Emily Taaffe.
Director: Conor McPherson.
Designer: Rae Smith.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Movement: Jack Murphy.
Digital Artists: Tim Blazdell, Emma Pile.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Fights: Kate Waters.
World premiere of The Veil at the Lyttelton Theatre, London on 4 October 2011.