Writer: Eugene McCabe
Director: Garry Hynes
Reviewer: Laura Marriott
There is always excitement in the air when Druid stage a new production. For the 2017 Dublin Theatre Festival they are presenting Eugene McCabe’s play King of the Castle at the Gaiety Theatre. Often described as an unsung Irish classic King of the Castle has the potential to be an excellent addition to the festival programme.
Written in 1964 there is something about Eugene McCabe’s play that makes it feel as though it could be much older. The themes of whether to leave Ireland and try one’s luck in Canada or elsewhere, or whether to stay and try to write out one’s name on the mountains is one that reverberates throughout Irish history.
In this domestic rural drama we meet ‘Scober’ McAdam and his much younger wife Tressa in the middle of a working day. Married for three years their relationship is childless and frustrated. ‘Scober’ has become successful through greed and exploitation. Slowly gathering up land until he is now master of the big house. He is now King of the area. But he finds himself King of an eroding way of life. Good men are leaving and women are not automatically stuck still in the place they were born. It is nearing the end of the era of the ‘big house’ dominating the local economy and social life.
When one farm worker, Maguire, asks Tressa ‘what is a woman for?’ it sets in motion a series of events that takes the audience into the core of this marriage and shine a light on the uncertainty of masculinity, sex and marriage in a changing world. For a man used to being able to buy anything he wants, will ‘Scober’ be able to turn his situation into an easily solved financial exchange?
At its core there is something very sad and quite savage about King of the Castle that provides grist for the plays dramatic narrative. Celebrated director Garry Hynes argues that it ‘is very much a play of its time but the central themes still resonate today, being steeped in a world of patriarchy and religion that invades the personal and the intimate’.
Runs Until 15th October 2017 | Image: Contributed