Entertainment Books

Monday 22 September 2014

Pope soap is a drama too far

Published 28/11/2004 | 00:11

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JIM O'HANLON is a highly successful television scriptwriter, having belonged to the more than competent team who write Coronation Street. His last play The Buddhist of Castleknock showed that influence: it was an extended soap opera story. But it was entirely competent in that genre.

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THEATRE

EMER O'KELLY

JIM O'HANLON is a highly successful television scriptwriter, having belonged to the more than competent team who write Coronation Street. His last play The Buddhist of Castleknock showed that influence: it was an extended soap opera story. But it was entirely competent in that genre. His new play, Pilgrims in the Park, also staged by Fishamble, is a disastrously bad example of the genre.

It is a long time since I have seen anything quite so turgid, plodding, and theatrically moribund. Set at the weekend of Pope John Paul's visit to Ireland in 1979, it sets out to tell us when that was with endless and unnecessary references to the fashions of the day such as the Rubix cube, the Dandelion Market, and a new band, U2 (cue hilarity as a parent says they'll be gone in a year).

The dreary "characters" are the members of one family; they're all secretly dysfunctional (cue sociological comment on the state of happy Ireland). The husband is obsessed with a now-adult daughter of whose existence his wife is ignorant. His brother, the priest from Wexford, is heavy on the drink because he's secretly in love with his sister-in-law.

The other brother is a ne'er do well intent on making money by selling chairs in the Park for the crowds welcoming the Pope. (Sounds sensible to me.) He, being the black sheep, is naturally the only one to pity the 20-year-old son who refuses to get a job because he wants to be a pop star. The wife's just bloody miserable all round.

And then there's a waif with whom the husband is obsessed, because she reminds him of his unknown daughter. One hopes not: the girl is a drug addict, pregnant by a priest rapist, and what would have been called in the less PC year of 1979, half-saved.

The dialogue is grindingly embarrassing, with such gems as, "We all have choices: that's what marks us out from monkeys," and, "It's this country's most enduring shame we cast our faith in stone." Now haven't we all said that in passing over a cup of coffee?

The cast do their best with this rubbish, but only Enda Oates as the husbandand Barry Barnes as thepriest have even moments of credibility.

One tries to find saving grace, but it's not possible. Jim Culleton's direction and Sabine Dargent's set are as ghastly as their material.

At The Helix; from tomorrow at the Civic in Tallaght, followed by Draiocht, Blanchardstown

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