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.