Review: Coolatully, Finborough

“Nobody’s coming to pick you up off that floor. If you lie down then that’s where you’ll stay ‘cause we’ll all be gone soon”

Following Luke Owen’s Unscorched, Louise Monaghan’s Pack and Dawn King’s Foxfinder as the latest winner of the Papatango New Writing contest, Fiona Doyle’s Coolatully proves that a one word title will get you far in this contest, the victorious play receiving a full production here at the Finborough. And perhaps a little surprisingly for a new writing prize, it emerges as a rather conventional piece of Irish drama, its plotting rather schematically spelled out for all to see and little theatrical innovation obviously at work.

Which is a little disappointing as many of the ingredients for a success are present. Doyle’s gift for contemporary characterisation is acutely observed as 27 year old Killian, a former golden child due to his hurling prowess – languishes in the SW Ireland village of Coolatully which has been decimated by the economic crisis. Its young folk (including Eilish, his love interest) are leaving in droves for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, anywhere with jobs and/or good weather and those left behind are struggling, trapped by duties towards parents (Killian) or driven to petty crime (Paudie). Continue reading “Review: Coolatully, Finborough”

Review: Uncle Vanya, Minerva

“I could have been a Dostoevsky”

Opening the season for Chichester’s 2012 Festival, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary no less, is Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Roger Allam stars in Jeremy Herrin’s production in the Minerva studio, which utilises a translation by Michael Frayn but given that it is barely a week since I saw and adored The Print Room’s production of the same play, the bar was raised really quite high for this one. But setting productions up against each other achieves little and though my preferences ended up in West London rather than West Sussex, one can appreciate that perhaps they are attuned to different audiences.

Chekhov’s tale of a man who has spent most of his working life as the steward of his late sister’s Russian country estate but is thrown into inconsolable desolation at the realisation that he may well have wasted his life in servitude. The gloomy atmosphere pervades to encompass all the residents of the house and matters are exacerbated with the arrival of ex-brother-in-law Serebryakov, with his glamorous, much younger wife Yelena. His plans and her presence rouses the beginnings of some response but lifetimes of inaction and repression prove hard to shake off for all concerned. Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, Minerva”

Review: The Hostage, Southwark Playhouse

“I was court-martialed in my absence, and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence”

After having one of the hottest tickets in London in January with The Rivals, the Southwark Playhouse had quite an act to follow and it has done so by reviving Brendan Behan’s play The Hostage, the first new production in the UK for 16 years. Opening with a song and dance routine as The Rivals did not really help to stop comparisons instantly being made, we soon moved onto to both a naked man appearing and characters addressing the audience, both of which have been in incredibly plentiful supply this year already.

Behan’s play is incredibly hard to define: it’s set in a brothel in 1960s Dublin where a young British soldier is being kept hostage by the IRA in reprisal for the planned execution of a young IRA member in a Belfast jail. The hostage is forced to share the space with the resident prostitutes both male and female, their customers, and a random selection of crazy individuals, but finds a connection despite everything with a young innocent housekeeper. It’s comic but tragic, it’s farcical but political: as I said, hard to define! Continue reading “Review: The Hostage, Southwark Playhouse”