Writer: Gavin Kostick
Director: Bryan Burroughs
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Rise Productions return with their award winning productionThe Games People Play. A sharp combination of ancient Irish folklore and state of the nation, Kostick’s contemporary Tír na nÓg is certainly a more challenging place than that of Irish legend.
Oisín (Aonghus Óg McAnally) and Niamh (Lorna Quinn) are feeling the sting of a boom-gone-bust! On the eve of their son’s birthday, while assembling an Argos multi-game table, the couple begin to discuss their financial situation. As the truth about the couple’s finances starts pouring out a familiar posy-Celtic Tiger conflict arises. Should Oisín temporarily relocate to Birmingham in order to provide his young family with a cash flow, or should he stay and allow Niamh to pursue her dream career, teaching. With no easy solution on the horizon the couple decide to eek it out on the Argos multi-game. Whomever wins gets to decide, but there is much more than good natured competition present in this interaction.
Very few writers can truly master the natural conversational flow of married life but Kostick’s script, aided by McAnally and Quinn’s strong performances, makes one feel as if they are on the outside of any Irish home peering in the window. There is nothing groundbreaking about the content of this couple’s conversation, but it is sharp, well delivered, and seamlessly natural. Coming in at just under a mere seventy-five minutes in length, the well balanced pace of the play makes it seem much shorter. McAnally and Quinn have a superb onstage chemistry and at times you would be hard pressed to believe that this wasn’t their own family home. The ebb and flow of this family breakdown interspersed with some fantastic comedic moments keeps the audience entertained and engaged. The audience is invested in the show’s end result and this reviewer’s allegiance changed several times during the show’s. The audience is truly rooting for Oisín and Niamh as a family unit and its a race to the end to see how it will turn out.
This play’s only fault was perhaps the underplaying of its central theme. This reviewer feels that the underlying Tír na nÓg inference might be lost on many occassions if it were not highlighted in the productions’ marketing material. As such the plays cryptic finale might be misread by members of the audience less au-fait with Irish folklore. Also one could argue that some of the more pointedpolitical references might have been more natural.
There is no doubt that this plays popularity stems from its relatability. It would be difficult to find an audience member that couldn’t empathise with some segment of this couple’s life. McAnally and Quinn deliver a stunning and believable performance. This play is a must see.
Photo courtesy of Rise Productions. Runs until April 25th in the Civic Theatre and on tour nationwide until May 9th.