Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Playboy of The Western World - Richmond Theatre

Playboy of The Western World by John Millington Synge
Directed by Garry Hynes
Reviewed by James Higgins

When first performed in Dublin in 1907 Synge's story of Irish patricide caused widespread outrage amongst angry Nationalists resulting in rioting during and after the opening nights performance.

The story begins on the wild coast of Ireland with the arrival of Christy Mahon, a lone fugitive who has murdered his father. To his surprise he is hailed as a hero and his attentions are much sort after by the local women. Interspersed between a commentary on love, loneliness and free will are clever comic touches throughout.
Returning to the play that was Druids first production back in 1975 Artistic Director Garry Hynes manages to encapsulate the tragi comedy of life in County Mayo at the turn of the century. Francis O'Connors tight boxed set of grey walled drinking den with tiny window and realistic earthen floor really helps create a sense of period.

Shawn Keogh, Pegeen's lanky scarecrow of a suitor who lives in terror of the local catholic priest is comically played by Marcus Lamb. Clare Dunne as Pegeen and Derbhle Crotty as the crafty widow Quinn looked solid in their roles, as did Andrew Bennett (Old Mahon) playing a character a lot older than himself, provides humour throughout in his numerous resurrections from the dead. Although lacking any obvious romantic charms, Aaron Monaghan as the hapless Christy gives a compelling and powerful performance and by the end of the play the effort was showing as he looked physically exhausted.

In early 20th Century Ireland, "playboy" did not have the connotations it has today. It referred to a hoaxer or trickster which explains why Christy is referred to by widow Quin as “the playboy of the western world” In 2009 the play quite remarkably still feels fresh and contemporary,belies the fact that it was written over 100 years ago and remains a great piece of theatre.

Playboy runs at the Richmond Theatre until Sat 23rd May
frontpage hit counter