Saturday 23 September 2017

A credible, touching piece that avoids sentimentality

THEATRE

EMER O'KELLY

Christian O'Reilly's Here We Are Again Still is, I suppose, community theatre. But it has none of the enthusiastic worthiness that such projects usually imply. And the main reason for this is a thoroughly professional production with professional actors of status. And if you want to get across a community message, this is the way to go: it's the opposite of irritating people and boring them to death.

Here We Are Again Still was commissioned by Galway City Council and was written following eight sessions of recollection and conversation with the elderly (and other) residents of a local authority block of flats on the edge of a football field. And out of those sessions come three imagined people: Paddy, an elderly widower grieving inconsolably for his wife; Imelda, an elderly single woman still tentative when it comes to trusting other people; and Tony, a younger man who has lost everything due to the drug addiction from which he's battling shakily to recover.

The action takes place on a park bench overlooking a football field where Paddy stakes out squatter's rights as he watches the teams training, but only from a distance; he was once the trainer for the Thirds. Imelda has no intention of allowing him to freeze to death as he sits there late into the night, and persists in nannying him, despite discouragement. Tony, helpless and hopeless, is less determined to reject friendship.

And we go from a situation where Paddy howls at the moon "I'd love someone to shoot me" with the other two equally despairing, to a kind of accommodation with reality, as the American mistress of pessimism Dorothy Parker had to admit after a series of suicide attempts "You might as well live". And they do, maybe not happily ever after, but with new, small cores of warmth in their lonely hearts.

It's a credible, touching piece with enough iron in it to prevent the curdling effect of sentimentality.

It's excellently played by Eamonn Hunt as Paddy and Brid Ni Neachtain as Imelda, but Andy Kellegher as Tony has a rat-a-tat-tat delivery that becomes monotonous at times. Andrew Flynn's direction is good.

The piece was at the Town Hall in Galway, co-produced by the author, St John's Theatre Listowel, Decadent Theatre, and Nun's Island Theatre. It has yet to tour to Carrick-on-Shannon, Virginia, The Mill in Dundrum, Dublin, Draiocht in Blanchardstown, Mullingar, Drogheda, and Newbridge, Co Kildare.

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