Theatre review of Tom Murphy's Brigit and Bailegangaire
Playwright Tom Murphy is gloriously elusive. His latest play, Brigit, received its world premiere by Druid Theatre this week and you might think you know what to expect from a Murphy play, but you'd be mistaken. Murphy, now in his 80th year, is launching off in a different direction, he is creating lightness.
Although Brigit is a new play, it was originally conceived many years ago as a television play centring on the two characters of Seamus, the artisan who is good with his hands but his creativity does not fit with this Irish rural village life of the 1950s, and his wife Mommo, a devout and spirited grandmother caring for their three orphaned grandchildren.
Seamus is a serious and thoughtful man, he does not simply accept the word of the church for the church he knows is a bad debtor. He has been commissioned by the nuns to sculpt a statue of Saint Brigid and the saint's story starts to possess him. Days bleed into nights as Brigit's shape starts to emerge from a piece of ancient bog oak. The children run about and the priest visits, but at the heart of this is the relationship between Seamus and Mommo, filled as it is with loud silences, and it is beautifully brought to life by Bosco Hogan and Marie Mullen, under Garry Hynes' direction.
This is a simpler slighter work, with some humour, but it works very well as a companion piece to the devastatingly brilliant Bailegangaire, each play adding levels to the other.
Bailegangaire is set 30 years later in the same house, the kitchen now dominated by a wrought iron bed and in it is Mommo, the passing years written across her.
In this room are three woman entirely dependent on each other and at war with each other, Mommo and her two granddaughters: the worn-down Mary and Dolly with her film star looks. Mommo is trapped telling the titular story of how the town came to be without laughter, a story she circularly tells without ever reaching the end. But tonight Mary is determined it will finish, all of their futures depend on it.
This strong-willed triumvirate are presented in three utterly remarkable performances by Marie Mullen, Catherine Walsh and Aisling O'Sullivan, with director Garry Hynes perfectly captaining this ship as it sails through waves of desolation and devastation.
But this is Tom Murphy and behind Brigit's lightness lies impending doom and Bailegangaire's cloud of bleakness finally lifts with atn unexpected, if faint, note of hope.