Writer: Conor McPherson
Director: Eoghan Carrick
Reviewer: Ciara L Murphy
First produced in 1995 at Dublin’s Crypt Theatre, Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower returns to Dublin for its run at Temple Bar’s Project Arts Centre. Set in an unnamed seaside town somewhere in Dublin, This Lime Tree Bower tells the story of three men in a week that would mark their lives forever. Joe (David Fennelly) and Frank (Stephen Jones) are brothers. Their sister’s boyfriend Ray (Peter Daly) is also a frequent trespasser into their lives.
This Lime Tree Bower is rife with complicated masculinities and moral ambiguities, which is exactly what we have come to expect from McPherson. The pockets of dark humour and moments of true bleakness balance each other out, keeping the audience attuned to the building tension. We wonder, will this situation be resolved, and how?
Alyson Cummins’s set design is simple, but imposing in its darkness. A single window provides the only clue to the outside world and is a subtly changing seaside scene. The audience flank the performance space on three sides, the resulting effect is a setting which feels enclosed, but strangely safe. It never feels dangerous here, something that might have benefited the production, should it have been facilitated.
Fennelly, Jones, and Daly give solid and well-rounded performances, eschewing the confines of stunted male friendships that so often crop up on the Irish stage. Instead, they deliver with a warmth, closeness, and believability that really makes this show work, illustrating the complicated nature of friendship. Carrick’s direction is solid and the show is heartfelt and genuinely humorous. At times the more humorous interludes of Ray, the stereotypical self-interested academic, can veer towards trite, but the structure of the play keeps the scales balanced.
This Lime Tree Bower stands at a short 80 minutesbut feels like less. In this time, the ensemble delivers a genuine and skilled performance. The performance is not groundbreaking in its originality but does provide a great sample of McPherson’s quintessential dark humour, casual fecklessness, and problematic masculinities.
Runs until 27 February 2-16 | Image: Project Arts Centre.