Writer: Conor McPherson
Director: Amanda Gaughan
Reviewer: Gareth Davies
If there’s a chill in the air when you leave the Lyceum’s latest production, it may not be just the weather. Conor McPherson’s modern classic is an atmospheric tale of men and women, beer and whisky, fairies and children, often sold as a ghost story but in reality far more than the sum of its tingly bits.
Perched on stools at a bar in a rural Irish pub, Jack (Gary Lydon), Jim (Darragh Kelly) and Finbar (Frank McCusker) regale Valerie (Lucianne McEvoy) with tales of the area, telling of fairy roads and mad neighbours as they jockey for her attention. But Valerie, having left Dublin for this remote hideout, has stories of her own, and as barman Brendan (Brian Gleeson) helps them pour their drinks, the night winds to an unexpected conclusion.
But even that is to mis-sell the story a little. This is noWoman in Black– for every bump and scream of that popular stage chiller,The Weirhas a bucketload of emotional resonance, and the ghostly tales really only set the stage for a more human narrative of the more mundane things we can’t always explain; love and loss and relationships and isolation.
The ensemble cast mostly capture the rhythms and flow of McPherson’s rambling text, although at times Amanda Gaughan’s production feels almost self-consciously stagey – without much dramatic activity on stage the cast are in danger of spending more time facing out to the audience than actually looking at each other. This might be in part because of Francis O’Connor’s pseduo-realistic set, stretching the width of the stage but not allowing much depth of space – the rear of the stage, behind a gauze, is taken up by an atmospheric tableau of the night sky and the drizzle which envelopes the pub at the start of the play.
It’s not always clear if the tone of the men’s banter at the bar is light joshing or more serious one-upmanship of each other, and until the end Valerie doesn’t make much impact other than as a spark for the main narrative drag – her too ready acceptance of a glass of white wine is a missed opportunity for McEvoy to strengthen her presence in this otherwise masculine world.
Played straight through with no interval, the pacing is a little uneven, and the final moments of the play happen too quickly for it to feel like a proper ending.
With solid performances from all the cast there is much to enjoy – Darragh Kelly stands out as bachelor Jim, whose mother “has been fading fast for years”, and who tells the tale which leaves the most goosebumps during the play – but the final feeling is of a surprisingly slight presentation of a story that could resonate more deeply when played with greater relish of the details.
Runs until6 February 2016 | Image: Drew Farrell