Writer: Jack Harte
Director: Andy Crook
Though set in 1989 Jack Harte’s Vulture feels deeply current given its themes of Irish economic turbulence, vulture funds, and the ever-present battle between community and capitalism; with the New Theatre as a fitting venue for some impassioned debates between the characters about the consequences of endless consumerism and the importance of unions and protests to protect the interests of the people. Harte uses this piece to look at the arrival of the systems that led to the financial crash, touching on the cronyism and the greed that went on to have such an indelible effect on Ireland for the next 30 years.
As the lights come up Ruarí Lenaghan as William saunters into the snug of a small town in the Irish midlands, with an adopted American twang, a deep and abiding cynicism, and a strong disdain for this place that he grew up in. He spars briefly with the part-time barmaid Stella (Laura McAleenan), who has no time for affectations from the US, and is soon joined by his childhood friends Sean (Eoin O’Sullivan), the local union head and lover of all things community, and Gabrielle (Mo O’Connell), the wife of the factory manager and past love interest of both William and Sean. If that seems a little complicated for a 90-minute four hander it is in some ways, but not too distractingly so. The main plot focuses on the imminent closure of the factory, which will have a devastating effect on the town as it is the source of most of the employment there, and the unexpected threat that William plays in this, as it quickly comes to light that he has been sent by a US investment fund to make the call on the fate of the factory. Weaving around this are the turbulent relationships between the characters and the feelings that surround them; rejection, hurt, a love triangle, outsider sentiments, the concept of soul mates, the passing of time, the death of innocence, disappointment, misogyny, how it feels to be Irish, and a whole host more.
Though the plot may be stretched by all of the different avenues that Harte wants to explore within it, the acting is wonderful. Leneghan is convincingly hateable and yet at the same time a bit redeemable in his role as William. He has great stage presence and flows through his deplorable arguments with aplomb. O’Sullivan is a picture of earnest goodness but doesn’t overplay it, and remains likeable despite his idealism. McAleenan brings most of the humour to the piece and shows a lovely range of hard and soft, giving the character of Stella some great depth. O’Connell is the one to watch here, with incredibly convincing emotion throughout and some throw away expressions that genuinely tugged at the heart. Direction from Andy Crook is great as ever.
The use of a variety of 80s tunes is both strange and enjoyable, the choices sometimes seem so far from the mood of the scenes on either side, and yet that’s a bit refreshing as well as the plot remains quite serious throughout. Set design from Martin Cahill is simple but effective, with the snug convincing and a divide of indoor and outdoor achieved without screening, just some well-placed shovels and bricks; the New Theatre stage is well used here. Costume design from Toni Bailey is happily in the era, with some great touches, particularly for the characters of William and Stella.
All in all the overarching theme is relevant for the Ireland of today and well at home here in the New Theatre, the great cast and direction make for an enjoyable watch, certainly worth a look in.
Runs Until 2nd December 2023.