By Romano Mullin,
Any production of J.M Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World is haunted by its past: this was the play that started a riot in Dublin when it was first performed. There were no riots at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, but director Conall Morrison’s production of the play lived up to the Playboy legacy.Morrisson is no stranger to Irish drama, directing amongst other things, Dancing at Lughnasa and Juno and the Paycock. His take on Synge’s visceral and darkly funny play demonstrates a master at work, with a finely balanced production that not only opens up a landmark of Irish literature for modern audiences, but has something to say about the visceral brutality of Irish life even today.
The cast make up a diverse bunch of experienced old hands like Niall Cusack as Michael James, and relative newcomers such as Hannah Coyle who plays Honor Blake. The playboy himself, Christy Mahon, is portrayed impeccably by Patrick Moy who balances both savagery and childishness.
ss in a performance that manages to stay just on the right side of comical.
But there is no doubt the true stars of the show are the two leading women. Orla Fitzgerald as Pegeen Mike and Bríd Ní Neachtain as the Widow Quin embody forces of nature that ripple through the play and hold it together, seamlessly. Ní Neachtain combines a comic force with a bathos that embodies the harsh life her character has lived and dominates every scene she is in. Fitzgerald echoes her in her portrayal of Pegeen Mike who longs for a world beyond the wilds of the west coast. It is her final, sorrowful wail that will stay imprinted with audiences for a long time to come.
Although a times the comic elements of the play tend to border on farce and there is the odd accent slippage, this is a fine production of The Playboy of the Western World that is sure to be enjoyed by many audiences during its run.
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