Come On Home is a play steeped in tradition. At first glance, this is yet another naturalistic ‘state of the nation’ play. However, writer Phillip McMahon uses this tradition to write previously marginalised stories back into Ireland’s theatrical canon.
Michael, played by Billy Carter, returns to his rural home-town after years of absence for his mother’s funeral. His arrival at the family home causes old histories and hurts to re-surface as the trio of brothers: Ray (Ian Lloyd Anderson), Brian (Declan Conlon), and Michael must come to terms with unfinished business. Michael, a former seminarian, and an openly gay man is unafraid to confront his family with the realities of his absence, his life, and his relationship with his hometown. The play expertly interrogates the relationship between faith and sexuality in Ireland, exposing some of the hidden realities of life in the clergy.
The set, designed by Colin Richmond, is beautifully detailed and subtle. His manifestation of the brothers’ family home is peppered with doors, which serves to highlight the irony that in this house, it is hard to leave. The lighting design (Kevin Treacy) is simple and befits the naturalistic foundations of the play.
Come On Home gets off to a slightly forced start in Act One with some cluttered dialogue and clumsy blocking impeding the pace of the piece. However, the second act improves on this with a dynamic display from the cast who are forceful and empathetic in their representation of a family falling apart and finding themselves again.
Some of the most subtle interventions into this plot are made by Kathy Rose O’ Brien, who plays Ray’s partner Aoife and also Aislin McGuckin who plays Brian’s wife Martina. McGuckin is a powerful force onstage and her beautifully realised portrayal of the controversial Martina touches on some of the most intimately powerful moments of the play. The only shame is that these women’s lives are not further explored in the piece. It echoes a questionable theatrical tradition of having women characters as accessories to the action rather than a vital component of the plot. In a production which so vitally explores marginalised stories, this reviewer feels more could have been done to remedy one of the major problematics of the tradition that it draws from.
Come On Home could easily make the journey from the Peacock to the Abbey’s Main Stage. McMahon’s writing illustrates why stories like this are crucially important for the National Theatre. The production nods to the importance of Ireland’s 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum and notes that the lives of members of the LGBTQIA community need to be re-written into the national narrative. What better way to do this than on Ireland’s national stage?
An engaging and vibrant night at the theatre.
Runs until 4 August 2019 | Image: Patrick Redmond