Drum Belly | The Abbey Theatre
Star rating: 4.5 / 5
Review by: Una McMahon
Venue: The Abbey Theatre
Written by: Richard Dormer
Directed by: Sean Holmes
Cast: Liam Carney, Gerard Byrne, Ciarán O’Brien, Ronan Leahy, Phelim Drew, Gary Lydon, David Ganly, Declan Conlon, Ryan McParland, Karl Shiels
It is 1969, and man is landing on the moon. But Gulliver Sullivan (Declan Conlon) and his crew have other things to worry about - a truce with a rival gang seems set to fail, and suspicion and discontent are growing among the men.
From the outset, Drum Belly is an assault on the senses. The moon looms large over the stage and JFK’s words ring out, as the violent world of Brooklyn Irish gangsters is brought to life - visceral, corrupt, and unforgiving.
This is a very talented cast, with outstanding performances from all. Declan Conlon’s gang boss Sullivan is masterful and Liam Carney is perfect as the bellicose Harvey Marr. The goons, Phelim Drew as Antrim and Ronan Leahy as Wicklow, are fresh from the recent Abbey production of King Lear, and carry the warrior ethos with them here. Special mention must go to Ryan McParland as Bobby Boy in his debut at the Abbey, a chilling mix of innocence and menace. And even though the Brooklyn accents may not quite be perfect, this serves only to heighten the particular emigrant trait of the hybrid, not quite at home, not quite abroad, the constant yearning of the exile. Ireland, says Sullivan, is where the wind blows it.
Richard Dormer’s script is taut, and uncompromising in its brutality. Great emphasis is given to words and the role they play, but the language of this play is rage, even though a large part of the menace comes from silences. The presence of Walter Sorrow (Gerard Byrne), the butcher, requires nothing further, and Bobby Boy’s silences fill the space around him and say more than words ever could.
There is humour, too, and lots of it. It gives humanity to the unpleasantness of both situation and character - the verbose Lumpy (David Ganly), the gormless O’Hare (Gary Lydon), the cocky lieutenant Rourke (Ciarán O’Brien). Karl Shiels’ Mickey No-No is deft, and without ridicule.
It is a first appearance at the Abbey for both director Sean Holmes and set designer Paul Wills. Hopefully it will not be their last. Direction here is expansive and Holmes has filled the whole stage with ego and bluster. The set is concrete, and brooding, the only elements of softness being emblems
Drum Belly is fantastic - dark and bleakly funny, a fast-paced testosterone-fuelled gangster tale with a great soundtrack. Do not miss it.
Drum Belly runs in The Abbey Theatre until the 11th May. Tickets on sale now from €22.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 11th April 2013 | Theatre
I was absolutely blown away by this last night, well done to all involved! This is by far the most fun and entertaining play I have ever seen. So fast paced, darkly funny and well cast. I could have watched them forever! Ciarn O'Brien as Rourke and Liam Carney as Harvey were the stand out performances for me but the whole cast were brilliant. This is one of the best productions I have ever seen, with a blood spattered stage and the whole cast rocking the scene changes to a fantastic 1960s soundtrack! I was right at the front and my only regret is that I lacked the courage to get up off my backside and give them the standing ovation that they deserved. Sorry to the cast for being such a chicken!Posted 00:45 | Sun 14th Apr 2013
Awesome as the Americans love to say! I enjoyed this production with every fibre of my being, from the black humour to the stereotypes with more than a grain of truth that any Irish person living abroad can identify with, I was entralled. My New Yorker companion was as appreciative as I was but focused on elements that I hadn't even noticed. Like Gulliver Sullivan believe me when I say "my word is iron" , do not miss this opportunity to see Drum Belly before it takes over the world. Fantastic!Posted 21:41 | Sun 28th Apr 2013
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