Wednesday 14 November 2018

A Christmas story with devilish wit

Review: The Restoration of Hope, New Theatre, Dublin, until December 16

The Restoration of Hope
The Restoration of Hope

Katy Hayes

It is Christmas time in Dublin. Larry McGrath (Nick Devlin), in a dowdy Christmas jumper, is decking his office with tinsel. A red triangle appears on the floor and a young woman in jogging pants manifests, dripping water. Hope Whyte (Jody O'Neill) has been murdered by her husband.

There is a system, organised by the demons, whereby murder victims get a second chance at life if they agree a pact to kill their murderer. That way the demons get a truly evil soul, which they can pack off to the vaults immediately, and the murder victim is "restored" for a second crack at life, albeit for a short time. Larry is a manager of these "restorees". With each recruit, he himself gets another allotment of time. Entrepreneur Hope grasps at the chance; she has an important pitch for her solar power business that evening.

Writer Philip St John has created a contemporary thriller laced with Dickensian humour and morality. It is a version of the Faust legend, where a pact is made with the devil in order to prolong earthly life. A Mephistophelean character appears, a demon called Luca (Shane O'Regan), who is Larry's line manager. Entrepreneurial Hope immediately starts trying to negotiate a new deal.

There is plenty of action, including a hit by Hope on her killer-husband. Terrific sound effects by Carl Kennedy help create a supernatural atmosphere. The script ranges widely, covering all sorts of issues, including the downside of short-term employee contracts and the insidious presence of evil in the world.

O'Neill is engaging as Hope, her likeable go-getter persona full of authenticity. Devlin appears thoroughly ground-down as Larry, the office worker. O'Regan, the demon, looks suspiciously like a young Bono. Director Matthew Ralli steers proceedings with great command.

This is a clever and thought-provoking 80 minutes, reminiscent of the best work of Conor McPherson.

It tackles the contemporary moral crisis by harnessing the uncanny in order to split open the world and take a look at its innards. Brand new plays, when they succeed like this, are the best form of theatre.

Book it now...

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Smock Alley, Dublin, Dec 4 — 16

These two Enda Walsh plays are presented as a double bill directed by Tracy Ryan for Reality:Check. A good opportunity to see the playwright’s early, breakthrough work.

2 MR BURNS: A POST ELECTRIC PLAY

Project Arts Centre, Dublin , Until Dec 9

As part of Rough Magic’s talent development strand Seeds, this new play by Anne Washburn involves a futuristic nuclear-fallout riff on The Simpsons. Directed by Ronan Phelan.

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