Saturday 10 December 2016

Sheridan comes up smelling of roses

THEATRE

EMER O'KELLY

Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00

A LOVELY MAN: Peter Sheridan's charm and intelligence can be seen at Bewley's Cafe Theatre
A LOVELY MAN: Peter Sheridan's charm and intelligence can be seen at Bewley's Cafe Theatre

writer and theatre producer/director Peter Sheridan has an inordinate amount of charm that permeates his work and makes him seem like the much-abused definition of "a lovely man".

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He's funny, he's self-deprecating, he's street-wise, he's naughty, and he has the rare quality of mixing the "wisdom of the ages" with a good dollop of sharp reality. He's also, of course, highly intelligent. As a result, when he wrote his two books of (more or less) memoirs, 44: A Dublin Memoir and 47 Roses and told the story of his family in them, he created a chronicle of family life that stopped you in your tracks.

There's no self-pity, no sentimentality; there are no dramatics in either of the books. Sheridan tells the story of an inner-city Dublin life in the Fifties and Sixties with objectivity, humour, human insight . . . and a mastery of language and mordant humour. And now he has given his voice (I'm tempted to describe it as magical) an additional life by adapting and performing 47 Roses for the stage at Bewley's cafe theatre in Dublin.

It tells of a three-way love story at a time far removed from sophisticated 'design for living' scenarios. When Sheridan's father died in 1994, the tracking down of Doris, a long time family friend in Lancashire, who had spent time with the family every year in Dublin during Peter's childhood, uncovered a silent and unacknowledged love-story that had continued since 1946.

Doris arrived in Dublin carrying a bouquet of 47 red and white roses (the colours of Manchester United, and the number of years she had known Peter's father) to place on his grave. And slowly, the son uncovered the joys and agonies behind the photo of his father squinting into the sunshine, an arm around Anna (his wife and Peter's mother), the other round Doris, who also loved and endured.

It could be a sordid, cruel story. As Peter Sheridan the younger (his father was also Peter) tells it, it is hurtful, yes, but it is also tremulous and marvellous. Considered with detachment, the elder Peter was an unmitigated shit, not merely refusing to abandon his first love after his marriage, but imposing her on his wife, and presumably doing unspeakable emotional damage to both women. But when the author, who so clearly loved both his father and his mother, tells the story with his writer's eye, it becomes a tale of sad wonder.

When I first read the book, I loved it. Now, on stage (directed by Maggie Byrne), it has another dimension, because Peter Sheridan (the younger) whose work is usually excellent as a director, can also tell a story from text that turns it into pure theatre.

Sunday Independent

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