A mysterious young man appears one evening in the Flaherty public house claiming to have just killed and buried his father. His story entrances the residents and begins to attract all manner of obsessive, eccentric locals. Who is he? He’s Christy Mahon (William Cox), the Playboy of the Western World!
John Synge’s venerable play, The Playboy of the Western World, has been heralded as one of the greatest Irish comedies of all time. The classic play has a long history of greatness on stage and film, and so the bar was set fairly high for Independent Theatre.
Directed by Rob Croser, Independent Theatre’s production of The Playboy of the Western World is an immensely amusing and well-crafted play featuring some fine talent. From the opening, an atmospheric tableau of Margaret Flaherty (Catherine Hancock) staring out of her door at the sunset over the Irish coast, we expect quality. The small house in which the events of the play unfold is a fully enclosed world, yet thanks to clever offstage effects we feel that the entire Western World is indeed going on outside its walls. The actors make use of this set and the varied props with great skill, adding a true sense of realism and life.
The play is a heavy piece of lyrical, jaunty Irish writing that would make any actor wince, but every member of the cast managed to deal with their lines expertly. A lot of practice and effort obviously went into this performance, but it unfortunately couldn’t save a good few lines from being lost on the audience. The combination of thick Irish accents (which I must say were fantastic) and fast-paced romantic language made comprehension a bit difficult. On the other hand, to keep up such a brisk pace and keep the accent consistent at the same time is quite a feat. The delightful slang and not-so-subtle touches of Irish Catholicism add to the flavour of the piece.
The physical aspects of the performance were great, from the hilarious drunkenness of Philly Cullen (Angus Henderson) and Jimmy Farrell (Alex Daly) to a dramatic (and life threatening) tug-of-war, the actors did a fantastic job at exaggerating movements without going over the top, at least, not too often.
While Catherine Hancock’s portrayal of Margaret Flaherty was practically perfect, I must admit that I found the other love interest, Widow Quin (Tracey Walker), a much funnier character. Walker plays the part incredibly well, causing visible uneasiness in the naïve Christy with her advances.
It may take you a while to get used to the accents, but Independent Theatre’s The Playboy of the Western World is definitely worth it. It is a funny, charming, yet dark play that proves the classics still have a place in modern theatre.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Odeon Theatre, Queen Street Norwood
Season: 8-16 November
Duration: 2 hours with interval
Tickets: $18.00 – $35.00
Bookings: Book through BASS
Photo Credit: Rob Croser