Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Rea’

David Ireland’s absurdist black comedy is one of the most unpredictable plays I’ve ever seen. It had me laughing uproariously one minute and turning my head in horror moments later. This is great theatre.

We first meet Ulsterman Eric with his black female psychiatrist. They don’t get off to a good start as he refers to her with the n word. We know this session follows some sort of crime or incident, but at this point we don’t know what. In flashback, we go to the start of his psychotic journey, when his daughter brings her newborn baby home, on to a meeting with a UDF paramilitary and from here it becomes ever more absurd and ever more horrific until a conclusion which tests the strength of your stomach.

Ireland uses the black comedy and the absurdity to send up the irrational and illogical bigotry of this protestant unionist very effectively, though I’m not sure I’d recommend they transfer the play to Belfast, where it is set in Cyprus Avenue, apparently a middle class suburb – we’re not dealing with your average politicised bowler-hatted unionist marcher here. It twists and turns and really does shock and surprise you.

Stephen Rea is superbly deadpan when conveying the most ridiculous views and theories, but turns viscous in an instant. Chris Corrigan is a much more manic unionist paramilitary; desperately funny. Wunmi Mosaku provides contrast – detached, non-judgemental, in control, with the occasional subtle display of her inner feelings. Terrific performances all round.

This is David Ireland’s tenth play, but the first I’ve seen (and the first to get a production in London?) and it has certainly whetted my appetite for more. One of the best nights at the Royal Court in a long time. If you’ve got the stomach for it, be sure to see it.


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Playwright Enda Walsh has always been a bit, well more than a bit, Beckettian, but here he has ‘created’ (you can’t really say ‘wrote’) an odd, absurd, surreal ‘piece’ (you can’t really say ‘play’) that’s fully fledged Beckett, in spirit if not restraint. It was a very long 100 minutes and having invested that much of my life in it I’m disinclined to invest a lot more reviewing it. I’ve seen a handful of Walsh’s plays since Disco Pigs in 1997 and it really is a trajectory much like Beckett; diminishing returns. I think this might be my last.

The only reason for seeing it is two virtuoso performances from Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi – but it comes at a price. For the first 20-30 mins I was intrigued and fascinated, but that soon turned to irritation and then to boredom and eventually to fantasies of a gin & tonic in the comfort of my own home. For some inexplicable reason, though I had not connected with the piece emotionally, the conclusion was like a wave of sadness blowing from the Lyttleton stage.

Two men race around the stage dressing and undressing, throwing things (and themselves) around, making a mess, uttering seemingly meaningless dialogue and generally getting on your tits. They appeared to be in some death waiting room and we eventually meet the grim reaper, Stephen Rea, a cool-as-cucumber chain smoker who appears to suggest only one of them come forward. Ballyturk seems to be a place outside – we hear voices of the residents, there appear to be drawings of them on the back wall (which get darts thrown at them) and our two protagonists may be impersonating them occasionally. Who knows? Who cares?

Jamie Vartan’s set includes mysteries like inaccessible cupboards and draws, a cuckoo clock with a life of its own, a kitchenette in one corner and a shower(ette) in the other and a back wall that lifts and lowers to reveal Stephen Rea’s character in his world. It gets well and truly roughed up. Walsh also directs, so there’s no-one else to blame. The two lead actors give it their all, but for me that isn’t enough.

If this is what it’s like inside an Irish brain, I’m glad I’m Welsh!

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