Lovers | The New Theatre
Review by: Lauren O'Toole
Venue: The New Theatre
Dates: Until 9th July, 8pm
Director: David Ferguson
Writer: Brian Friel
Actors: Michael Wallace (An Ideal Husband, The Winter's Tale), Ann-Marie Taaffe Oedipus the King, Emma) April Bracken (Thursday's A La Parisienne, Boxes), Martin Burns Jr.(The Bacchae, Oedipus), Neill Fleming (The Hostage, La Locandiera), Sharon Coade (The Get Together, Glengarry Glen Ross), Teresa MacShane Cashin, Eileen Fennell (Portia Coughlan, Julius Caesar).
Nutshell: Two one act plays portraying the trials and tribulations in both puppy love and the last chance saloon.
You'll like this if: You appreciate a good storyteller – which, of course, Brian Friel is the epitome of.
Avoid if: You have been overdosing on the Friel mania that seems to have consumed the Dublin theatre scene: there's the danger it will take a hold on you and you'll be found on street corners wistfully reciting prosaic monologues.
Star Rating: 5/5
Lauren O'Toole's Full Review:
Lovers is two one act plays placed side by side. Winners, the first, features Mags and Joe, seventeen year old school students who have climbed to the top of a local hill to study for their imminent exams. Joe is determined to focus on mathematical equations, intent as he is to one day becoming a maths teacher, and Mags is determined to distract him. Mags has a lot on her mind and alternates at a dizzying speed between vocalising every fleeting thought that enters her head and expressing her worry and excitement about her forthcoming marriage to Joe and the birth of their baby.
April Bracken is the perfect embodiment of Mags. Girlish and petulant, self-centred but endearing, her comic timing of Mags' stream of consciousness is superb and really makes the audience feel for her often patient and serious fiancé Joe. Martin Burns Jr. balances Bracken's high energy performance with a slow building exasperation that anyone who has had to deal with a "Mags" in day to day life can really relate to.
Losers is more of a fast paced piece, with the lovers of this play facing adversity from outside influences far more then Mag and Joe – who, while forced together by societal expectations, judge and pick on each other in a childish yet potentially damaging manner. Andy and Hanna meet a lot later in life then their youthful counterparts, their love and affection for each other seemingly boundless and impeded only by the almighty force of Hanna's ageing mother. Scared that Andy is going to whisk her ever compliant daughter away into the sunset, the manipulative Mrs Wilson (Eileen Fennell) tries to break her son-in-law through the power of prayer – enlisting the newlyweds to join her every evening in a rosary dedicated to her beloved Saint Philomena. Fennell and Teresa MacShane Cashin, who plays the part of her fellow bible basher, the lovingly nicknamed "Prissy Cissy", are the perfect image of Catholic repression, ruling the household with their rosary beads firmly wrapped around their iron fists. Neill Fleming is hilarious as Andy, with his drunken outburst towards the end of the play particularly crowd-pleasing. Sharon Coade completes the strong cast as Hanna, a ball of nerves, torn between exasperation with her mother and a thinly veiled devotion to her.
The acting is phenomenal in both pieces with “Man” played by Michael Wallace and "Woman" played by Ann-Marie Taaffe deserving of a special mention for their clinical yet beautifully toned narration of the story of Mags and Joe – their uniformity and steely concentration remarkable. The set design by Fiona Carey is inspired – with the movement of the haphazardly hung strips of wallpaper in Winners into closely formed walls in Losers appropriately reflecting the claustrophobia of Andy and Hanna's marital home. The religious images peering down from the walls complete the oppressive atmosphere.
The title of the plays, Winners and Losers, is certainly a talking point - you come away feeling as if no-one really won anything and yet it seems to be more a case of perception than anything else. Andy and Hanna let their love slip away and stay together despite knowing that they've lost what they once had. Mags and Joe, when they pause from their constant bickering, are happy to live in the moment, content with their innocent belief that no-one will ever be as happy as they are right now.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 7th July 2011 | Theatre
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