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Theatre reviews: Solar Bones and Dear Ireland

Solar Bones builds on Mike McCormack’s acclaimed novel while Dear Ireland disappoints

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Noble everyman: Stanley Townsend in Solar Bones. Photo by Ste Murray

Noble everyman: Stanley Townsend in Solar Bones. Photo by Ste Murray

Noble everyman: Stanley Townsend in Solar Bones. Photo by Ste Murray

Marcus Conway is alone in his home in Louisburgh, Co Mayo. It is November 2, All Souls' Day. His wife has gone to work and his adult children are away. But something doesn't quite ring true. The house feels peculiar; in Zia Bergin-Holly's abstract design it isn't quite how he describes it. It looks like a representation of an engineer's brain, like the bones of a house. Its bare timber frame and industrial cellophane walls reflect Bergin-Holly's subtle and shifting lighting plot.

Michael West adapts Mike McCormack's award-winning novel carving a distinct dramatic scaffold, like a good monologue engineer, from the episodic source material. But McCormack's underlying sturdy philosophical content is paramount and the outcome verges on the sublime. There is not a better representation of the ordinary pains and pleasures of a married man who rears children. Marcus is proud of his engineering job, of his breadwinning. He glories in his child's birth certificate, in its simple documentary power of citizenship. He relishes looking after his wife when she is struck by cryptosporidiosis following contamination of the local water supply. His wedding ring is especially shiny. He fights off interference from corrupt politicians in his building projects. He is a good citizen.

This is a profound engagement with death, but also with life. Marcus's existence is given detailed exploration: his father's angry late-life paranoia, his once-wronged wife's deep hurt, his daughter who mounts an art exhibition made out of her own blood. He is repulsed, not by her bodily fluids, but by her sanctimoniousness. Stanley Townsend summons a profound ordinariness to embody this noble everyman. Lynne Parker directs this world premiere for Rough Magic and Kilkenny Arts Festival. Her touch is sure-handed and subtle, skilfully coating the profundities of the material with simplicity.