Review: A moving play with a dark heart
Theatre: Famished Castle, Pavillion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire
Hilary Fannin proves her mettle in this deeply moving and clever play about a loving relationship that died of too much Celtic Tiger. Two couples are presented: the bullish amoral generation that built the boom, and the more sensitive generation it spawned.
Waiting at snowy Dublin airport for her delayed husband to return, Angie (Aislín McGuckin) meets her former partner Nat (Raymond Scannell) who is visiting from Berlin. He has come home to make arrangements for the care of his father Tom (Vinnie McCabe) who is suffering from Alzheimer's.
Memories flood into the present. Vinnie McCabe transforms Tom from a doddery old man into a vigorous tyrant: a kind of Irish Big Daddy, full of appalling and spellbinding charisma. Demented ramblings from the early scenes now make sense. Nat's dead mother Trixie is brought to bitter life by Eleanor Methven at her best; the disappointed older woman, but with depth. A birthday dinner is played out with pure awfulness in a fish restaurant decorated with a shark in a glass case, a nod to Damien Hirst. Tom and Nat emerge as a rotten father-son developer double act.
Fannin's chiseled prose evokes the writing style of Brian Friel, with its musical quality and rich subtext. She is not afraid of the body; there is a moving physicality in the relationship between Nat and Angie, and a poignant sensual loss in Trixie. Like few Irish plays, this one is peopled by actual sexual beings.
Director Lynne Parker for Rough Magic Theatre Company creates a compelling intimacy, which works to draw the audience into this funny, cruel world. The play runs without an interval. All four performances are cracking. And whilst the story has a dark heart, it veers finally towards the light.