Writer: Simon Stephens
Director: Ross Gaynor
Simon Stephens writes a tale of redemption following character Jamie Carris over 30 years, and the impulsive decisions he makes during the course of his life. We first meet Jamie at 19, with his first and only love, Lynsey. Then again at 29, while he is incarcerated. Jamie’s brother, Matty, visits him there; and finally, at age 39, where we empathise with a remorseful Jamie, attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter, Emma.
At first we meet a young Jamie (John Cronin), a man of low socio-economic background and limited life choices, in a car on the run from the police. We are introduced to his girlfriend Lynsey (Ciara Ivie) who we quickly come to realise, is fed up with Jamie’s volatility and violence. Jamie quickly makes the audience aware he is on the run for killing a man, and that Lynsey MUST stay with him. Cronin delivers this all at high volume and similar intensity; it is scarcely believable he will have anywhere to go beyond that for the remainder of the show.
Ivie and Cronin’s chemistry is undeniable. Ivie pushes back against Cronin with emotion and intensity, and it is always a pleasure to see women take up space with the same ferocity and gusto as their male counterparts. Though Lynsey is a meek character, Ivie does not play her with weakness. Given a variety of emotions to portray, Ivie uses her body and facial expressions to express her emotional journey to the audience.
The small theatre packed to the brim with tables overflowing, was silent during this opening scene. There was scarcely enough room to move your chair, let alone stretch out. An outstanding crowd for the opening preview night! I was however, apprehensive, as starting a play with so much loud intensity can often leave one wanting. In moving through time with Jamie, we meet his brother Matty (Callan Cummins) who visits him in prison. Cummins made big efforts to portray his character Matty’s awkwardness.
Stephen’s plays are full of good dialogue that require a lot of an actor as character’s like Jamie’s are presented as complex, tortured beings. Cronin seemed to start off with volume and intensity then fades off during the next 30 minutes. Perhaps this was a deliberate character choice, but I felt it left the other cast members to bring more energy towards the scene and ultimately I was not fully drawn in and absorbed by the action on stage. However later, with daughter Emma (Pattie Maguire), there was a noticeable and distinct change. Cronin softened and let us in more, showing us some genuine emotion as the play came to its end.
At Country Music’s close, the audience were left wanting and somewhat disappointed that the obvious talent and range from the cast was not fully drawn out, resulting in lack-lustre performances. However, I must say director, Ross Gaynor, does a fantastic job of ‘Irish-izing’ this London set play. Had you not known the play previously you would assume it is set and written for a Dublin / Belfast based audience.
Runs Until 2nd March 2024.