Thursday, 7 March, 2002

This new controversial play by Sebastian Barry is a pretty dull affair indeed as it drags on with very little to say. The play is controversial because some people identify the main character with former Irish Premier Charles Haughey.

The play is about Johnny Silvester, a retired ‘Irish politician’ who won the hearts and votes of Ireland in his heyday. However, now at 70, he finds himself looking back at his dubious and ‘corrupt’ past as he comes to terms with an illness, his infidelities and the tribunals to which he now has to provide an account for his former time in office. He’s gloomy most of the time and has ghostly visits from a dead former colleague who warns that the fires of hell are being stoked for him, and he argues with his wife, who won’t forgive him his past affairs as well as blaming him for neglecting their suicidal son.

While Patrick Malahide tries his best to bring some life and interest to the character of Johnny Silvester, he fails. The character is so morose lacking both wit and charm, that I became totally uninterested in him, apart from feeling sorrow that a man should end his days in such despair.

James Hayes as Stephen his ‘loyal’, blabber-mouth manservant, provides the play with its only humour, but not enough. In fact, this lack of humour is just one of the problems with this play. When you have a dispiriting story to tell it works better with some moments of humour, some pieces of candy with which to help make the bitter fare a little more palatable. Unfortunately, this play has very little with which to lift the winter blues, and topped with no real action it makes for a dull and miserable drama.

Lucianne McEvoy as Aisling, who interviews Silvester for a term paper, brings some life to the play, so does Anna Healy as Connie, his ex-mistress. But they are not on stage long enough to resurrect this corpse.

The play has received poor notices from the popular press: BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE FOR THE TIMES SAYS, “An unexciting dish.” PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, “Disappointing piece.” CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “It ought to be gripping stuff, but somehow it isn't.” NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “Dreary, loquacious melodrama.” JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "Overwritten, self-important and tedious play."

This dreary melodrama does have its moments, but lacks the emotion and tension to sustain its 2 hours 30 minutes.

(Darren Dalglish)

External links to full reviews from newspapers...

Evening Standard
Daily Telegraph
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