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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Reid’

I’ve always thought this early Brian Friel play was amongst his best and this terrific production by Lyndsey Turner at the Donmar Warehouse has added to this conviction. It’s all about the unsaid and the consequences of the unsaid and it’s both funny and desperately sad.

It takes a while to get into as Friel’s device of two actors playing the central character Gar develops its necessary rhythm, but it’s a brilliant idea. ‘Public Gar’ is the master of the unsaid and as a result he never gets the girl, never develops a relationship with his dad and escapes to the US. ‘Private Gar’ tells us what’s going on in his head and by seeing both we see the feelings hidden behind the facial expressions and body language.

Gar lives and works with his widowed dad and housekeeper Madge. His exchanges with the former are entirely without emotion and mostly about the stock in their hardware shop; the latter is a surrogate mum. His inability to say what he feels means he fails to press for the hand of girlfriend Kate. His friends are all bravado, boasting about what they are going to do but doing nothing. Going nowhere, he decides to emigrate and live with his childless aunt in Philadelphia and work in a big store. The play takes place the day before he departs, with the occasional flashback.

It’s surprising how much depth these characters have given we’re with them for less than two hours. Gar is beautifully played by Paul Reid and Rory Keenan, the latter with the challenge of a lot of speedy dialogue and movement. They are only identical in their clothing, but they really do feel like one character. Valerie Lilley captures Madge’s suppressed affection beautifully and James Holmes has to create dad with few words, but does so well.

Rob Howell’s set is a realistic shop and home, with a huge wall of shelves and lights to provide a more impressionistic setting for the more surreal other-worldliness of the play. Lyndsey Turner’s direction has a lightness and playfulness but it’s ultimately deeply moving. It’s hard not to shed a tear at the unfulfilled life that leads to Gar’s escape; I did so at the end.

This is a long overdue and beautifully executed revival and the first big hit in Josie Rourke’s reign at this lovely venue.

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