Writer &Director: Mark O’ Rowe
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Mark O’ Rowe takes to the main Abbey Theatre stage for the first time with his new play Our Few and Evil Days. Set in present day Dublin, the play revolves around one family and their darkest secret. Adele, played by Charlie Murphy, brings home her new boyfriend Dennis, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, and his entrance into the family’s life sets in action a sequence of events that results in the confrontation of a secret they have hidden for decades.
As the audience prepares to take their seats in the sold out auditorium, there is an air of excitement, expectation, and trepidation. O’ Rowe fans have waited anxiously for his newest play, and the choice to place it on the, usually conservative, Abbey stage has been met with an abundance of curiosity. As the lights went up on a naturalistic and domestic set, this reviewer was sure that O’ Rowe had compromised what makes his theatre unique, but one admits that she couldn’t have been more wrong. O’ Rowe stated in the post-show discussion that his experience of hosting a show on the Abbey Theatre’s main stage was a toss up between putting on “a good play that feels a little inappropriate, and a bad play which is more appropriate.” What results from the choice to do the former, is an astounding piece of theatre which gives the Abbey’s regular programming the shake up it has needed for decades.
The set, superbly designed by Paul Wills, lures the audience into a purely domestic world. O’ Rowe’s script and direction reinforces the indisputable reality of family life portrayed onstage. O’Rowe’s decision to direct his own work has been successful, his management of the script and action ensured that the many tics and hesitations in the performers’ language and performances moved with a fluidity that was both flawless and breathtaking. Ciarán Hinds and Sinéad Cusack play married couple Michael and Margaret. Their representations of a marriage fraught with guilt, sadness, love and an undying passion for one another was so raw it was spine tingling. Hinds’ portrayal of Michael’s powerless and deflated masculinity, as he tries to protect his family, was this reviewer’s highlight of the show. The tone of the performance was a fine balance between tender love, and pure raw grief and it was this balance that guaranteed the audience’s attention for the whole performance.
O’ Rowe leaves the audience with a sense of ambiguity over what they have just witnessed. Audible gasps and utterances pepper the auditorium as the play’s thrilling finale roars to a finish.
This naturalistic, dialogue piece is far from what audience’s have grown to expect from Mark O’ Rowe, but Our Few and Evil Days lead us to believe that he has been crafting the show for years.
Powerful, compelling and utterly beautiful, Our Few and Evil Days is unlike anything seen on The Abbey Stage in recent times, and this reviewer for one hopes that it is a lasting trend.
Photo courtesy of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Runs until October 25th.