Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Saturday 21 September 2019

Theatre: The Kiss by Jimmy Murphy - Lovers tragic and comic; and a cow

Tale of Hilarity and tenderness: Charolais, written and played by Noni Stapleton
Tale of Hilarity and tenderness: Charolais, written and played by Noni Stapleton

Emer O'Kelly

There is an almost eerie feeling of documentary about Jimmy Murphy's new play The Kiss. Because it is horribly, despairingly familiar, each of its elements a tragedy we've all too frequently read about in our newspapers and seen on televisions news bulletins.

Eddie is drinking alone in a bar; it's very close to the courts in Dublin. Eddie is waiting for a verdict on the fate of the gang of young thugs who picked on him and his lover late at night on a Dublin street. And Val, the man Eddie has shared his life with for five years, is dead, the back of his head reduced to a bloody pulp on the pavement.

Eddie is almost 50 years old, but he lives with his parents, and drives his father's taxi on the night shift. That's because Val's parents changed the locks on the flat he and his beloved shared for years. It was in Val's name, although he'd had business problems, and Eddie had been paying the mortgage single-handedly for more than a year. Eddie wasn't even allowed to attend the funeral as chief mourner, and heard himself described by Val's mother as "just a tenant."

The familiarity of the theme, with its lonely sense of injustice, could make for a hackneyed play; but Murphy constructs the monologue so well, its cadences so skilfully veering from quiet rage to total desolation and (occasionally) to miserably philosophical acceptance, that the moods fully encompass a lifetime and all the inroads of a lonely soul.

And the author is extraordinarily well served by Luke Griffin as Eddie in a performance of subtly nuanced despair.

The Kiss is a Directions Out production directed by Joe Devlin, and it's at Theatre Upstairs (7 p.m. nightly) at Lanigan's Bar on Eden Quay in Dublin.

Separate love stories running in tandem aren't an entirely unknown phenomenon in literature; but when one of them is a lonely young woman, and the other is an exquisite, curly-haired Charolais cow?

Clean up your mind; it's not that. Siobhan comes to work on the farm with Eddie and his hawk-eyed, widowed mother. Eddie likes her, with inevitable consequences. But being a dedicated farmer, he's far more interested, it seems, in the progress of his prize Charolais. And while Siobhan's pregnancy develops under the resentful eye of Eddie's Ma, the pretty Charolais fantasises about her forthcoming meeting with her own lover, who will, she expects, be a bull of high degree to match her own status. Quel dommage! Her lover turns out to be the AI man and his syringe, leaving her unsatisfied and broken in spirit.

Noni Stapleton's hilarious take on rural life and love is a paradox: superficially crude, it's full of wisdom and tenderness, and manages to throw in a fair sprinkling of compassion and forgiveness along the way.

Charolais is a short piece, played by the author (revived at Bewley's lunchtime cafe theatre at Powerscourt Centre in Dublin), and it is intended as a high compliment when I write that she is utterly convincing as both the sturdy Siobhan and the Charolais, her "rival" for the affections of the undemonstrative Eddie. (All does end happily, more or less.)

Stapleton is directed by Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, it's designed by Tom Dowling and costumed by Miriam Duffy. Charolais will tour various summer festivals, finishing up in September at the Backstage Theatre in Longford.

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