Thursday, April 23, 2015

Outside Killucan, beyond Mullingar...

A new play at the Ustinov Studio in Bath is always something to look forward to. Outside Mullingar starts like Steptoe and Son transported to Craggy Island, absurd comedy blended with realistic painful family co-dependency, but though the laugh-aloud dark-tinged mirth continues, the secret souls of these people brim with passionate imagination.
Writer John Patrick Shanley grew up in the Bronx and evaded his Irish heritage throughout a successful career scripting for screen and stage, succumbing only in his 60s to the pull of his father’s homeland, “the lost and beautiful world of my poet’s heart.”  This is unchanged rural Ireland, a raggedly beautiful landscape of long-simmering feuds and lives of quiet desperation, where middle-aged children tend the land of their fathers, still wondering what love looks like. Set in a village where ‘everything is spoken of’ yet somehow secrets and grudges thrive, this is also rom-com where the happy ending glimmers through the slats of the disputed access fence from the start. 
All four actors have great presence, with strong scenes of unresolved sexual tension between Anthony (Owen McDonnell) and Rosemary (Deirdre O'Kane), the shrew in a taming story reversed.  James Hayes as the blunt-talking father is marvellous, magnetically watchable in every scene. Sam Yates' direction skillfully negotiates the passage of time, and the evocative set designed by Richard Kent is enhanced by Giles Thomas' sound design. Lyrical and witty, this play will leave you musing on the human capacity for wild imaginings, and for redemption too.  Recommended.    (Images Simon Annand)

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