The Nest – Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Director: Ian Rickson
Writer: Franz Xaver Kroetz, in a new translation by Conor McPherson
Reviewer: Kevin McCluskey

As the expectant parents Kurt (Laurence Kinlan) and Martha (Caoifhlionn Dunne) tot up the costs of having a baby, listing the numerous ‘must have’ but superfluous accoutrements that will have to be hauled around, there is an air of the sitcom couple about them. Kurt is the loving but slovenly husband and source of much humour, Martha is highly strung and more practical. Though filled with comical moments, McPherson’s translation of Franz Xaver Kroetz’s play (relocating the action to Ireland) is dark, presenting a harrowing view of the larger forces of capitalism and corruption at work against working class men and women. Nevertheless, it is this shadow of the archetype that presents the play as a parable or morality tale.

tell-us-block_editedThe crux of the drama involves Kurt, a non-union lorry driver at work during a strike, being offered more money to dispose of waste in any area he can find, and explores the consequences of this in the lives of the couple. Alyson Cummins’s expansive set is one of the most impressive yet seen in the Naughton stage at the Lyric. A grimy bedsit apartment with a sofa that doubles as a bed sits atop a foundation of rocks, surrounded by trees. Parts of the floor are moved away to reveal a garden allotment – the natural environment and its potential for growth and change contrasted against the bleak realities of the couple’s financial struggles. PJ Harvey’s score, particularly in lengthier dialogue-free scenes, is moody and atmospheric, building the tension as we witness Kurt’s ultimately destructive actions all in the service of ‘the boss’.

Kinlan and Dunne’s performance have a lived-in quality, entirely believable as a coupled who have loved and fought many times before. As Martha, Dunne gives a layered often understated performance, showing the strain beneath the surface as she struggles through telemarketing calls at an attempt to bring in extra money. When Kurt’s rage and frustration comes to the surface it is messy, unfocused, and terrifying – Kinlan is alone for 10 minutes onstage with practically no dialogue, and his demonstration of Kurt’s emotional state is masterful. Yet in terms of dramatic construction moments such as this are odd in their interruption of the flow of the drama. Similarly, the move from Kurt’s actions to their consequences is extremely abrupt – the kitchen sink like realism of the set and performances clashing with the play’s attempt to make a bold point.

Runs until 22 October | Image: Contributed

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