Review: Ambitious play packs a punch
Theatre: Before Monsters Were Made, Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Presented by 15th Oak Productions, this ambitious new play by Ross Dungan tackles the tricky subject of paedophilia with courage, sophistication and some success.
It gets off to a flying start. A local girl Sally has gone missing and 10-year-old Maggie Colgan cannot sleep with fretting about her fate. Her father, David, tries to cheer her with a mythological French story about two feuding brothers and a missing daughter. In the story, the girl reappears safe and well.
This French narrative continues to detonate throughout the play; story, rumour, and the desire to create a simple and untroublesome version of events are key concerns.
David persuades his reluctant wife Abigail to host a birthday dinner for his father, Vincent. David and his brother, Graham, resent their father marrying a much younger woman so soon after their mother's death. Vincent is a music teacher whose one-on-one teaching of kids has been a source of malicious rumour in the town.
Excellent direction from Ben Kidd shapes the first half around the serving of a meal, while the story occasionally flashes ominously forwards to its tense final events.
In the second half, the play loses its stride somewhat. The deep virtues of story with its metaphoric richness give way to the shallower values of plot. As events tumble along at breakneck speed, there is far too much explaining going on.
Lorcan Cranitch is such a visceral macho actor, it is initially hard to accept him as piano-teaching Vincent, but his powerful performance increasingly makes sense.
Peter Coonan is convincingly self-deluded as the son and Manus Halligan as Graham brings a deep tragic self-knowing to his superb portrayal of a little man. The play doesn't fully deliver on its potential, but still packs a considerable punch.