Writer: Joe Brennan
Director: Tony Devlin
Reviewer: Colm G Doran
Set in the winter of 1978, in the Cooley Mountains, Brassneck Theatre Company present The Blue Boy of Glenmore. It tells the story of a brother and sister living in a claustrophobic farmyard cottage, sniping at one another. Jemmy John (The Blue Boy) played by James Doran, is obsessed with lambs, subsidy forms and the price he pays for everything. Colleen his sister, played by Christine Clare, is a young girl who is watching her life waste away in front of her. She is tired of the drudgery of country life. Both are forced to play the hand that is dealt them until Colleen makes a discovery that could change everything.
The story at the heart of this piece is a fascinating one – a boy born blue. This is briefly explained in the play – something about a family down the road having a similar experience, an encounter with bog water. Unsurprising when the story revolves around a steadfast farmer entrenched in his own avarice. By this point it’s no shock that he would drink the bog water if it meant he could save something else as a result. Colleen is evidently a girl set aside as a result of her brother’s deformity; she is keen to further herself and reads books on business with a view to eventual escape, carrying out the mundane tasks her brother demands of her for a pittance of ten pounds a week. Until one day her path crosses with that of a car mechanic that Jemmy hires, they knew each other at school and before long their relationship is rekindled.
Despite the story revolving around The Blue Boy and his sister Coleen, it is the comic relief provided by the visitors to the farm that steals the show. Marty Maguire plays the gregarious grocer, who has recently married an unpleasant ‘sow’ of a woman. His witty descriptions of his unfortunate wife and the various comparisons he makes to her and livestock make up the lion share of the comedic moments of the piece. Similarly Gerard McCabe’s turn as the gullible Paudie – a car mechanic with a notion of Colleen, is simultaneously humorous and endearing.
However the piece is not without its faults. Ciaran Bagnall’s set is an entirely naturalistic glimpse at country life complete with whitewashed furniture and exposed wooden beams on the ceiling. But the style of acting employed by the two central characters is often at odds with their very realistic setting. Doran despite occasionally showing different shades of Jemmy’s character, shouts a little too often. Clare’s Colleen appears as if she is in a trance at times, reciting words to the audience without connecting them to the other characters onstage which does not engage in the way it is intended. Similarly while she is excited by Paudie, shouting seems to be her go to response. Even the fundamental issue of the main character being blue is not teased out to a satisfactory degree; it has little to no bearing on the story at large.
If you are interested in the goings on in the remote Irish countryside – many people can certainly relate to this life – then this is the piece for you. However this reviewer felt that the script needed a further edit and the central two actors required some clearer direction in order for the piece to transcend its parochial boundaries and become a stronger story for a wider audience.
Runs until 14 May 2017 | Image: Contributed