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new vision for friel drama

The Gate Theatre >Aofe finneran

MOLLY Sweeney has been blind since childhood, but she's well able to see. Visual disability has had no ill effects on a contented woman whose other senses provide a unique "sight". Basking in the glow of her marriage to Frank (Peter Hanly), she harks back to a mother affected by nerves and a staunchly supportive father who refused to see her defeated by disability.

At the outset of Brian Friel's play, Frank's plan to restore Molly's sight is a sure route to a happy ever after. Yet Molly's musing that partial sight may not be an improvement turns out to be a self-fulfilling prediction.

Delivered in monologues, the play unveils the interwoven stories of Molly, Frank and the alcoholic eye surgeon Dr Rice (Michael Byrne). The lack of on-stage interaction could have been torturous, but the clever direction of Patrick Mason saved us from monotony.

All three characters remain onstage throughout, dipping in and out of the story as they move around a sparse set. Dawn Bradfield shines as Molly, particularly as she recounts the moments after her operation and the distorted shapes and colours that fill her vision.


Vision or lack of it, pervades the story. By operating on Molly, Dr Rice manages to look beyond his dark cloud of depression. However, with partial sight restored, Molly is unable to see her way in her new situation.

Cast out from the blind world, she cannot settle into a world of vision. As conflict rages, her mind deteriorates until it refuses to accept what she can see.

If ever there was a case for being careful what you wish for, this is it. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, it's a salutary lesson in counting your blessings. HHHHH

Ends July 23