Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Night Alive review

Published in The Irish World newspaper 26/06/13

Conor McPherson’s play The Night Alive at the Donmar Warehouse sheds a brutal but honest light on the world of male solitude and questions the limits of human dependency on others.


The play opened with the main character, Tommy (Ciaran Hinds) returning home to his haphazard house which he shares with his uncle Maurice (Jim Norton) . He is accompanied by an injured woman named Aimee (Caoilfhionn Dunne) who has just received a savage blow in the face from her boyfriend. As the pair engage in conversation we begin to understand why it is that Tommy is living in a house filled with empty food packets and dirty trainers. The arrival of his no-hoper friend and workmate “Doc” played by Michael McElhatton also highlights the tragic existence they both share and how they are very much only stumbling through their single lives. It is the arrival of a woman that truly shakes things up and rockets their mundane and lonely lives into something of a living nightmare.


 This unusual play began with a heavy helping of some typical Dubliner quick wit and sarcastic humour which at times was genuinely hilarious. Tommy’s attempt at making Aimee feel at home by removing dinner dishes from the toilet and offering her of dog biscuit had the audience roaring in their seats. However further on the play turns sharply on a very dark corner and becomes at times both frightening and philosophical. The arrival of Brian Gleeson’s character, played by Brendan Gleeson’s son, casts a shadow over the playful humour at the beginning and livens up Tommy’s life for all the wrong reasons.


As the play continues we see that even though Tommy seems unable to help himself, ironically, all the other characters seem to rely heavily on him. It was a touching moment when his uncle reaches out for his company by recalling the days they used to hold hands and go for walks when Tommy was a small child, to which Tommy responds “I’m a moocher, I’ve always been a moocher.”


McPherson’s newest play is sharp and intelligent but the combination of humour and philosophical questioning do not marry quite as successfully as he might have hoped. Nearing the end there were too many questions left unanswered and a little too many sub plots whose meanings were left up to the audiences own interpretation. The contrast between the light and carefree beginning and elusive ending left me feeling a little confused and slightly frustrated. Having said that, the superb acting and lively script nearly manage to brush over the disappointing ending and all in all McPherson provides the audience with much enjoyment and a generous helping of genuine laughs.

Relatively Speaking review

Published in The Irish World newspaper 19/06/13

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1967 play “Relatively Speaking” made him a household name in theatrical circles after its initial success in the Westend. As it swings back into action again in London’s Wyndham theatre, Leah Quinn went along to see if it could work its magic on a modern audience as well.


As quintessentially English as crumpets and cricket, this outandish 60’s comedy embodies all that is sustaining a stiff upper lip in the face of scandal and deceit. However, eventhough the play deals with the issue of doubt in relationships, it is very much a comedy at heart.


The play centres around a young couple Jinny, played by Kara Tointon an actress with Irish roots who many might know from Eastenders, and Greg played by Max Bennett. It opens with the two young lovebirds waking up in Jinny’s London bedsit. Their conversation quickly turns to marriage and Greg expresses his enthusiasm for accompanying Jinny to visit her parents at the weekend. When Jinny shoots down the idea Greg decides to follow her anyway and when he mistakes the wrong couple for her mother and father hilarity and mistaken identity mayhem erupt. The play and characters seem to be holding so many secrets from each other and the audience that for a large part of the production there is no telling who is lying and who is the victim of those lies.


Kara Tointon played Jinny with an endearing quality which seemed to work well on stage, however Max Bennett slightly outshined her with his Frank Spencer approach to his character. But it was Felicity Kendall who was the star of the whole production. She played Sheila, the wife in the older couple and her brilliant one liners and comedic timing had the audience in tears of laughter more than once. Kendall is best known for her part as Barbara in the popular 1970’s sitcom The Good Life.


It has been 46 years since this play was first staged and it would be very easy for it to fall flat in today’s more critical and demanding world of theatre, however for the most part many of the jokes still worked and did not seem to have worn weak with time. It does however take a while to find its feet as the first couple of scenes all feel a bit like a soap opera with less gags and more general chitchat. All in all it makes for a very safe bet if you fancy some light theatrical comedy and will most likely tickle the funny bones of anyone who enjoys traditional slapstick British comedy such as Some Mother Do ave’ em and Faulty Towers.