Writer: Malachy McKenna
Director: Bairbre Ni Chaoimh
Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty
There is a wonderful pathos in The Quiet Land, a gentle evocation of the simple naivety and harmless good humor reminiscent of rural Ireland of another time. This two-hander is essentially a comment on the isolation and vulnerability of older people and how our society has abandoned them.
Against the pastoral backdrop of Andrew Murray’s tranquil set, a remote field and gate, two elderly farmers meet. Nashee (Des Keogh) and the somewhat curmudgeonly Eamon, (Derry Power), a widower and bachelor are neighbours. Notwithstanding the fact that they incessantly bounce invectives back and forth at one another, they are really good friends. They exchange quips and chatter about the old times when they could cut turf and before local sheep farms have been sold.
Nashee has a penchant for solecisms. For example, in describing a school student’s transition year, it becomes a ‘transmission year.’ The witty repartee and wisecracks abounding in innocent fun are interspersed by Jack Cawley’s rustic soundscape, adding a delightful melody of lowing cattle, chirping birdsong, and the flight of wild geese.
A climatic turn comes about three quarters way through as a dangerous secret is revealed; an insidious terror lurks in this seemingly sleepy idyll. Behind Nayshee’s jocular banter is a fearful and subdued man, terrified of what the future will bring if he stays put. His is the perfect foil to the more high-spirited Eamon who declares passionately that he still has plenty of fight left in him. Eamon is determined not to give in, either to the handicaps that old age brings or to the thugs who recently violated him and ransacked his home.
The Quiet Land has been adapted for the stage from a radio play written by the much-talented writer Malachy McKenna for which he won the P. J. O’ Connor Radio Drama award in 2014. Bairbre Ni Chaoimh’s measured direction is evident in the actors’ skilled handling of language and unobtrusive use of gesture.
Belying the deceptively simple script and easy pacing, this is a triumph in understated power, subtly absorbing throughout. What is more, there is a real rapport between these two fine actors that have long served the Irish stage. Both men give accomplished performances instilling authenticity in their fractious familiarity and their mix of awkward affection and the way they gently rib each other. The Quiet Land is beautifully performed, tender, gentle and heartrendingly engrossing.
Runs until 20 February 2016 | Image: courtesy of Bewley’s Café Theatre