Writer: Hilary Fannin
Director: Lynne Parker
Reviewer: Ciara L. Murphy
Rough Magic present the world premiere of Hilary Fannin’sFamished Castle, a jarring look at contemporary Irish society. Ex-lovers Nat (Raymond Scannell) and Angie (Aislin McGuckin) meet again at Dublin airport after ten years of separation. Nat’s father Tom (Vinnie McCabe) is wasting away in hospital, losing his mind to old age. Nat has returned from Berlin to assist with his father’s care, and as a result opens the old wounds that sent him away from his family home in the first place. Angie, now a wife and mother of twins, pays Nat a visit, putting the life she has created at risk of implosion.This chance encounter re-opens the past that they shared, threatening to overthrow the new lives that they have built for themselves.
Famished Castle is set in a time familiar to us all. The Celtic Tiger is a constantly looming presence over this performance. Fannin’s script is non-linear, and alongside Parker’s direction merges past and present into a coherent and flexible narrative. The set, designed by Bláithín Sheerin, is a towering backdrop of semi-transparent curtains. Portions of the play’s actionappears and disappears in segments, allowing for this non-linear series of events to take place withclear division. Despite this however, theperformance leaves many questions unanswered.
The problematic absence of Angie’s husband, Paul, is the first in a series of questionable choices in this play. The characters seem disengaged from one another, trapped in a series of varying degrees of nonchalance. As Fannin’s characters journey back a decade in time to a seafood restaurant at the height of the boom, the story of the tragic death of Nat’s older brother, and the chronic illness of his mother are revealed. There is a perturbing lack of connection here. The tension created at the dinner table is very realistic and effective but is overshadowed by some peculiar direction choices. When McGuckin takes to the floor, swathed in her own self-reflexive pool of light, the result is more petulant than powerful.
The relationship between Tom and Trixie (Eleanor Methven) is the only one that plunges to any sort of dramatic depth. The audience can see the years of experience there, can reason with their actions. Both Methven and McCabe played their rôles convincingly, with McCabe in particular delivering an evocative and troubling display of the demise of his character. For this reviewer the relationship between Nat and Angie was unconvincing and was an insurmountable problem for the duration of the performance. Fannin displays them as a couple who never showed anything more than a reasonable tolerance for each other. For Angie to potentially throw her entire family away on one more night with an ex-lover doesn’t quite match up.
Famished Castle attempts tothrow a light on the dark intricacies of contemporary Irish society but unfortunately leaves a few too many questions unanswered.
Photo courtesy of Rough Magic. Runs until May 23rd 2015.