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Theatre review: Laughter, tears and near-hysteria

KUDOS has to be given to anyone who attempts to find humour in the relentlessly depressing setting of a nursing home where we are told "half (the clients) are drugged, the other half are in wheelchairs".

Mercifully, Halcyon Days by Deirdre Kinahan tickles the funny bone as much as it pulls at the heartstrings. As the saying goes, "if you don't laugh, you'll cry".

The play is set in the conservatory of a Dublin nursing home, where an unlikely friendship is forged between Patricia Whelan (Anita Reeves) and Sean Ceabhruill (Stephen Brennan).

Patricia, a retired school principal, is convalescing at the home which she quickly brands a "disgrace". She can't wait to leave.

Erstwhile actor Sean has no intentions of leaving. He is lost to his own mind. We later learn that he has nowhere to go.

In many ways this a meditation on what happens to the childless when they decline into their dotage.

More importantly, it asks if dotage is a choice for some, rather than an inevitable misfortune.


Sean and Patricia are Yin and Yang. Even the set design -- Patricia's side of the room is green; Sean's is grey -- serves to highlight their different mindframes.

Brennan seems to be acutely aware of the complexities of Alzheimer's disease -- it is incisively observed here.

Reeves's near-hysteria is the perfect foil to Brennan's confused stupor.

She doesn't want to confront her darkest thoughts. Sean has no choice but to.

There are moments of heart-rending poignancy in Halycon Days, but it suffers from a lack of drama and no cohesive arc.

What drama there is unfolds prematurely, while the twists have all the forethought of an adult improv group.

Nonetheless, the performances are stellar, and Kinahan's message is an important one. This is a play with huge potential.