Review by Peter Brown
4 May 2011
Within the intimate boundaries of family life, secretive relationships can often lurk unacknowledged. For an author, that can provide a goldmine of material. Writer and director Peter Sheridan found such material in his own family and here presents his play which focuses on the relationship between his father and a woman called Doris.
'47 Roses' starts with the death of Peter Sheridan's father, also called Peter, or 'Da' as his son refers to him throughout. As is often the case with these sad events, family members turn to memorabilia for comfort and explanations. And son Peter searches for letters from Doris, the Lancashire woman his father met before he married his wife, and who was to be an ever-present figure in the Sheridan family life for 47 years. But no letters are found, and that leads Peter junior to search for answers elsewhere, particularly from Doris herself. Along the way, we're not only provided with an insight into the personality of Peter senior, but also to other members of the family, as well as the 'other woman', Doris.
Peter Sheridan's performance is gently understated, rather like a friendly next-door-neighbour recounting a tale over a garden fence, or over a drink in a pub. And that suits both the intimacy of the story and Mr Sheridan's personal style. There's considerable humour, particularly in some of the recollections about his father's approach to dealing with household problems. For example, when seeking a solution to the lack of water pressure in the house, Sheridan senior eschews calling out the Dublin Corporation and tries to fix it himself, resulting in a massive hole in the road. The Corporation inevitably become involved anyway, and fix the water pressure in 10 seconds.
The Waterloo East Theatre is a compact space which is about the right size for this kind of performance. Unfortunately though, the sight lines are not wholly conducive to a one-person show. Occasionally, when Mr Sheridan sits down, those sitting towards the back of the auditorium lose sight of him completely, which rather breaks the intimacy of the piece.
The performance is short at around 70 minutes, but it's sufficient to tell what turns out to be a rather sad story. Nevertheless, we're left with unanswered questions about the exact nature of the relationship between Doris and Da. But then, I suppose that is also the case for the author. At times, I felt rather like an intruder raking through a relationship that was none of my business. There's one particularly poignant and very private moment when son Peter visits Doris and she shows him an album which only has one photo - of Peter senior - and which symbolises the life which he and Doris never had together. Compelling though the story is, I began to wonder if this family secret might have been best left unexplored.