By Tom Murphy
Dublin until 30 July.
7.30 PM, Saturday matinee 2PM.
Runs: Three hours including 20minute interval.
Review: Anne O’Leary of performance on July 1st.
Powerful drama that leaves an impression
When The Wake premiered in the Abbey Theatre in1998, it must have seemed like a curious choice, since Ireland was enjoying a period of rapid economic growth. What the play foresees is the negative impact this materialism will have.
The family under interrogation are the O’Tooles of small town Ireland buying and trading property with each other as in a casual game of monopoly. The heroine Vera (played exceptionally well by Aisling O’Sullivan), returns home to find that her beloved grandmother has died as a result of being neglected by her siblings. Vera has inherited the family owned hotel, a property coveted by her brother to increase his standing in the community.
Award winning, Annabelle Comyn directs a creative team worthy of this powerful play. Set designer Paul O’Mahony’s minimalist stage is offset by a backdrop of a giant ordnance survey map zooming into a section of Tuam, Tom Murphy’s home town. The lighting by Sinead McKenna magically highlights Vera under a starry sky in the outdoor scenes. Later, a section of the stage rises and the hotel unfolds from it.
Vera’s revenge on her family is to break the social boundaries that are most important to them and so she conducts a week long orgy in the lighted windows of the hotel in full view of the town. She is joined by a former lover, Finbar an outcast and by her unhappy brother-in-law, Henry who falls under her spell.
The family subsequently have her committed to a mental hospital for a short while but the whole experience results in Vera transforming her own life.
Music is extremely important in a Murphy play and the characters here seem to take refuge in the performance of their individual party pieces at the long wake scene. However, surrendering spoken drama to music is a risk and the singing lacks the intended transcendence. Instead it overextends the scene to an unnecessary length.
Vera: Aisling O’Sullivan
Finbar: Brian Doherty
Norman: Jasper Cahill/ James O’Donoghue
Mary Jane: Kelly Campbell
Tom: Lorcan Cranitch
Marcia: Tina Kellegher
Catriona: Nichola MacEvilly
Mrs Conneeley: Ruth McCabe
Fr. Billy: Pat Nolan
Director: Annabelle Comyn
Set Designer: Paul O’Mahony
Lighting Designer: Sinead McKenna
Costume Designer: Sarah Bacon