Author Donal Ryan has a gift for eliciting sympathy even for his characters’ misdeeds. In a new stage adaptation of his Costa-shortlisted novel, the first speaker we are introduced to, John (Lorcan Cranitch), is seeking forgiveness for a life of meanness, cruelty – and worse. It is a lot to ask.
For this co-production between Decadent theatre company and Galway Arts Centre, the script was developed by Ryan, along with director Andrew Flynn and the impressive cast of four, and retains the lyricism of the novel.
In a series of separate monologues unfolding over two hours, four characters in a small Irish town try to make their peace with painful pasts. For Syrian doctor Farouk (Aosaf Afzal), memories of his wife and daughter who drowned on their treacherous journey in a migrant boat cause him to blame himself. Meanwhile John, a property owner and shady financial dealer, recalls past bullying and the young woman he tried to coerce through obsessive love. Cranitch brings a bitter note of self-loathing to his confessions, spitting out the term he had used to describe his role as a blackmailing middleman: “a lobbyist”.
Florence (Maeve Fitzgerald) anxiously watches over her son, Lampy (Darragh O’Toole), as if trying to compensate for the absent father he never knew; Lampy nurses a broken heart for his first love while wondering how to escape from the town and his bus-driving job at a care home. For all his frustrations, his bravado and comic running commentary on his elderly passengers lighten the otherwise sombre tone.
On a stripped wooden stage with designer Ger Sweeney’s abstract backdrop and Ciaran Bagnall’s lighting evoking the sea and wide sky, there is little to distract from the performances. These are subtle and often gripping, as the successive monologues build to create character studies, some sketchier than others. Yet the relationship between them does not reveal itself until the end, when all four characters are finally on stage together, in a striking tableau. Rather than an “aha” moment, this feels a little rushed, so that instead of highlighting the rich threads of connection between disparate lives, the lingering impression is more of isolation.
July 18, 2022 at 04:41PM Helen Meany