Horse Play – The Glass Mask Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Emma Devlin

Writer: Eva O’Connor

Director: Dominic O’Brien

The second offering from Glass Mask theatre’s 5th season doesn’t disappoint. Written by acclaimed Irish playwright Eva O’Connor, Horse Play is modern, moving, and unexpected.

This well directed two hander is a story about Ciaran Kelly, a former star jockey with a strained relationship with his father, an eating disorder, and a missing prized racehorse named King. The writing is distinctly Irish and very regularly laugh out loud funny, but as always, O’Connor brings a beautifully deep and nuanced story to her audience, that goes far beyond the mysterious disappearance of a racehorse.

From the moment he steps onto the stage Sean Crawford’s Ciaran has a nervousness that feels relatable; although the exchange with his father lacks a certain depth, potentially due to the difficulty of having a natural conversation with a tape recording, he brings an immediate likeability to the character and manages the somewhat awkward exposition well. The play takes off with the entrance of King. When Jarlath Tivnan takes to the stage he brings an electricity with him that is palpable. It takes a real talent to play the camp human incarnation of a racehorse, and Tivnan certainly has it in spades. The dynamic between the two actors is nothing less than sensational, their rapport is natural and has a genuinely believable closeness, but more than that they build an energy between them that is the true highlight of this production. Riffing quickly through O’Connor’s smart dialogue they hit the funny notes, they hit the tender notes, but most impressively they take the audience into an intimate relationship between a boy and his horse and make them feel every emotion of a trot down memory lane.

A simple set again from the Glass Mask Theatre’s Kathy Ann Murphy, and a nice use of the space, with some wonderful glitz in the costuming. Good lighting and music choices, along with some well-placed sound effects, are nice touches that keep the mood light when it needs to be. The intimate setting lends itself to a closeness with the characters, but it would be interesting to see this piece taken onto a larger stage, where the pair could really stretch their legs; the strength of the audience connection could be seen in the twisted necks of people straining to see both actors at all times, even when they moved amongst the seats, but perhaps more space would lessen the struggle.

This play is a real gem from O’Connor, and Dominic O’Brien has directed Crawford and Tivnan into a perfect pair. Don’t be surprised if you notice some misty eyes towards the end – not to be missed.

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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