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Posts Tagged ‘Rachel O’Riordan’

Two new plays and one revival at the same time in London is quite something, even for the prolific Mike Bartlett. One of his great talents is his diversity of subject matter and form, and here he breathes new life into restoration comedy, with a bawdy satire which proves to be an absolute hoot. and about as up-to-date as its possible to get.

All the genre’s regular ingredients are here – social climbers, abandoned children, infidelity, mistaken identity, hypocrisy, asides to the audience – but in a world of influencers, tweeting, political scandal, reality TV, sex and drugs. In seeking to increase her profile, Lady Susan Climber recruits media consultant Hannah Tweetwell, who gets her invites to events like Sir Dennis’ philanthropic showcase for young entrepreneurs and possible chat shows with Rosalind Double-Budget. At the same time, her past is uncovered. Throw in an obsequious self-serving government minister with a right-wing journalist for a wife (unrecognisable, obviously) and it’s almost current affairs.

Rachael Sterling is terrific as Lady Susan, brazen and totally devoid of any moral core, and Richard Goulding is an absolute hoot as Matt Eton, Secretary of State for Procurement. The rest of the cast are more than a match, giving performances of great brio with shock and indignation to balance Lady Susan and Matt Eton, both totally unhampered by ethical considerations.

The design reflects the production values of the form in its heyday, with costumes bringing a contemporary sensibility. Director Rachel O’Riordan marshals her excellent cast with great pace and energy, squeezing every laugh (and there are many) from actions and expressions as well as dialogue.

A joy from start to finish, a real tonic.

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Seeing this again after 25 years made me realise what an astonishing debut it was for Martin McDonagh, then only 26. In the space of just seven years, it was followed by the other two parts of the Leenane trilogy, the first two parts of the Inishmaan trilogy (the third is unproduced but may be about to become a film) and The Pillowman. We then lost him to film, apart from 2015’s brilliant return with Hangmen and 2018’s disastrous one with A Very Very Very Dark Matter. The two Inishmaan’s have had recent successful, high profile West End outings, but this is only the second revival in London of any of the Leenane’s since the Young Vic mounted it in 2010 and its great to see it again.

Spinster Maureen lives with her mother Mag in a remote cottage in County Galway. Their relationship is brittle. Maureen’s two sisters have escaped and she’s left to care for her mother, which she resents. She’s 40 and has missed out on life. Mag expects her to wait on her, but Maureen’s resentment leads to cruelty. When neighbour Pato returns from London, Maureen smells freedom, but Mag sees desertion and they both try to out-manipulate the other. It all ends in tears, of course. Bloody families.

It’s superbly plotted and the tension builds brilliantly to it’s tragic conclusion. It’s very dark but totally believable. There were moments when I had to turn my head. Director Rachel O’Riorden’s production starts slowly but broodingly, then draws you in and grips you. Ingrid Craigie and Orla Fitzgerald are simply brilliant as Mag and Maureen, sparring incessantly, though the mother – daughter bond never completely disappeared. Adam Best and Kwaku Fortune provide excellent support. The design by partnership Good Teeth Theatre is seedy and gothic, providing an atmospheric setting for what unfolds.

I now so want to see A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West again. Someone? Please?

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