Review: Unfaithful, Found111

“We need to talk about this”

As interesting as Found111 is as a pop-up venue, and an intriguingly programmed one too, attracting a strong calibre of actor thus far, it remains extremely problematic to me that a new venue – the issue of whether London is lacking in theatres aside – can be opened without any access to wheelchair users, as there’s no way to get to the auditorium without climbing 71 steps. For me, accessibility isn’t something you get to pick and choose and so no matter how atmospheric this old Central St Martins building may be, just shrugging that it is “regrettably inaccessible” feels an inadequate response.

It’s more of a shame given that the latest production is arguably the best of the three that Emily Dobbs Productions has mounted here – Owen McCafferty’s Unfaithful blisters its way through the world of relationships with his unmistakable gift for excruciatingly sharp dialogue and the messy way in which we so often end up treating the ones we love. Middle-aged Tom and Joan have hit something of a rut, their uni-going daughter isn’t talking to them and they’re not talking to each other. And the substantially younger Peter and Tara are in the midst of their own crisis, suffering their own communication difficulties. Continue reading “Review: Unfaithful, Found111”

Review: Quietly, Soho Theatre

“Everything inside was blown outside”

Something of a shame as this was the final performance of Owen McCafferty’s Quietly at the Soho Theatre and it turned out to be quite the doozy. A £5 ticket deal sweetened the deal and in a neat twist, a game of international football started just as one in the play did (although it was Belgium vs Russia, as opposed to the Northern Ireland v Poland game of the script). In that Belfast bar, Jimmy is shooting the breeze with Polish barman Robert – the playwright capturing excellently a natural flow of dialogue which continues throughout the whole play – ruminating over what trouble there’ll be on the street if the result doesn’t go the right way.

But Jimmy has bigger things on his mind as is clear when another man, Ian, enters and he headbutts him to the ground. Thus the scene is set for the slow unfolding of the tangled history between the pair, on opposite sides of the religious divide but yet connected in the deepest of ways and McCafferty brilliantly uncoils his plot with a great subtlety. The ‘quietly’ of the title should not be underestimated as after that initial outburst of violence, the physical aspect is then quietened as an eerie stillness descends on the pub as a process of truth and reconciliation is attempted to acknowledge the devastating events of the past. Continue reading “Review: Quietly, Soho Theatre”

Review: Days of Wine and Roses, Donmar Warehouse

Days of Wine and Roses was a 1958 teleplay written by American JP Miller, but adapted here by Northern Irish writer Owen McCafferty and relocated to 1960s London, in its tale of the troubling effects of alcoholism on a young immigrant couple.

Donal and Mona are a couple who meet for the first time at Belfast Airport in 1962, as they are awaiting a delayed flight that will complete their emigration to London. Donal is a happy-go-lucky bookie’s clerk who likes a cheeky drink, while Mona is a timid civil servant from a strict family background who has never touched a drop until now. Her introduction to alcohol sets her on a headlong passionate journey and they enter a fast relationship which soon develops into marriage and parenthood. They enjoy the good life, liberally oiled with vast quantities of whisky but it soon becomes apparent that they’re losing control of the situation as looking after their son becomes less important than finding another drink. The play then hinges on the divergent paths that Donal and Mona takes as they come to terms, or otherwise, with their alcoholism.

It is excellently acted by Peter McDonald who ends up having to make the most heartbreaking of decisions and Anne-Marie Duff whose spiral of self-destruction leads her to the darkest of places. Together they make such a believable couple with palpable chemistry which makes their ultimate incompatibility all the more heartbreaking, somewhat impressive given the paucity of the material they are given.

Despite the quality of the acting, other aspects of the production felt not quite up to par. The simplicity of the staging and set appeared unimaginative with only the crackling 60s music of a radio punctuating creating the necessary ambience and rather highlighting the insubstantiality of this play: it doesn’t quite seem to justify its existence. So a mixed bag for me, strong acting but a disappointing production.