A Christmas story with devilish wit
Review: The Restoration of Hope, New Theatre, Dublin, until December 16
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...
1 DISCO PIGS & SUCKING DUBLIN
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.