Thursday 29 September 2016

Theatre: New play sets the Irish mammy in a tough new light.

Worth, Viking Theatre, Clontarf

Emer O'Kelly

Published 11/04/2016 | 02:30

The financial crash takes it toll on mother and son Jenny and Des, played by Geraldine Plunkett and Marcus Lamb.
The financial crash takes it toll on mother and son Jenny and Des, played by Geraldine Plunkett and Marcus Lamb.

New play sets the Irish mammy in a tough new light.

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Ger Gallagher's first play Weighing-In was a cosy little piece about fitness fanaticism among women, without too much subtlety; indeed, without any. It was a nice little piece of stereotyping for gangs of women to giggle at. Her new work, Worth, is far more substantial. A Dolmen production (she is co -director of the Dolmen Theatre in Cornelscourt in Dublin), playing at the Viking Theatre in Clontarf, it is nicely downbeat, and has some interesting characterisations. Set in 2007, just as the shadows of the financial crash were showing themselves, it portrays the battle of wills between elderly Jenny Lavelle and her middle-aged, high-flying son Des Lavelle. Jenny lives frugally in a large house on fashionable Ailesbury Road in Dublin, which is starting to show need of care, as indeed is Jenny herself. Des lives in a shiny new "mansion" in Co Kildare, with all the trappings of vulgar consumerism. But he's over-extended.

And as his mother's house starts to drop in value by about a million a month as the crash deepens, the stage is set.

Worth is a tragi-comedy about family, greed … and frustration. And Gallagher portrays them all well, even if some of her scene-setting does cross too many t's and dot too many i's. But there is a problem with the set (Michelle Barry): her version of an upper middle-class slightly shabby breakfast room is more reminiscent of a grotty Rathmines bed-sit, circa 1953.

The performances from mother and son Geraldine Plunkett and Marcus Lamb - playing mother and son Jenny and Des - however, are a treat, as is the support from Simon Toal as childhood friend/solicitor Declan. Sadly, though, Jenn McGurk as a trophy-wife neighbour, is both superficial and unconvincing.

Caroline FitzGerald's direction is impeccable.

"As his mother's house starts to drop in value, the stage is set."

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