ARTS AND FEATURES — 17 January 2014

Kathryn McCartin, Adam Henderson-Scott (playing Pegeen Mike and Christy Mahon) and an impressive supporting cast can be seen in a great production of The Playboy of the Western World. Picture: Mandy Gasson

5 stars

By David Hennessy

Following on from impressive performances of Russian classics at Theatro Technis, Gavin McAlinden and his acting gymnasium present their latest production, JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, rather aptly upstairs in The Corrib Rest. The space works really well with the audience allowed up close and the employment of a ceilidh band and dancers from Scoil Rince Rochford are very nice touches.

The play opens in a public house where Margaret Pegeen Mike serves as barmaid and is preparing to spend a night alone with her father undertaking a journey. The strange Christy Mahon, played by Adam Henderson-Scott, arrives. He is obviously troubled and it soon transpires that he killed his own father in retaliation to a lifetime of his father’s abuse. Although his tale is shocking, it earns Christy respect due to the courage it applies. On hearing it, publican Michael James reasons Christy is keen to employ Christy and sees him as the man to guard the house and his daughter while he is away. Pegeen Mike is also taken with his story and left alone, the pair get very close.

However, Christy’s story later falls apart when his father (James Tully), only wounded, comes after him and tells another side of Christy’s heroic tale. Exposed as a coward, liar and shamed, Christy erupts into a violent rage, a rage that could make him carry out the deed he has already spoken of and for all the village to see. However, this will win him no favour with Kathryn McCartin’s Pegeen telling him: “There’s a great gap between a gallows story and a dirty deed.”

Adam Henderson-Scott is excellent as Christy. First he admirably pulls off the brooding and haunted look of a man who is running from his own dirty deeds. But when his story is revered much more than condemned and females hurry from all around to see “brave” Christy, we see him play a man whose seen his dreams come true. Perhaps his best performance comes at the end though when Christy is shamed and revealed not to be the hero he was first taken to be. All is even more impressive when you realise Adam is from Newcastle as his accent is flawless.

Kathryn McCartin impresses as Pegeen, showing a wonder at both Christy’s arrival and story that illustrate something of the isolation she has experienced. Like Sasha in Ivanov, she plays a young woman falling hopelessly for the wrong man but very different plays, this shows a different side of her acting. Also, her Munster accent convinces when remembering she is from Antrim.

Characters like cowardly Shawn Keogh, played by Tommy Walsh, and the local ladies who visit, played by Anne Marie McAuley, Jacqui Shiel, Suzie Houlihan, and Rebecca Hadril, provide some of the best comedy moments of the play.

Although his controversial play would have been an early example with The Playboy provoking riots when first performed in Dublin, Synge’s theme (the glorification of violence) has been tackled many times since. Seeing Christy’s story make him something of a local celebrity is reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers where mass murder made Mickey and Mallory superstars but in the case, the media fed the legend rather than story telling.

Setting and costume have been kept to a minimum in Charm Offensive’s performances of Ivanov and The Seagull in order to keep the onus on performances. There has been more effort here on minimal but impressive props such as a realistic hearth and very suitable costumes but performances are still the same high standard.

The Playboy of the Western World is on at the Corrib Rest until 19th January, shows starting at 7.30pm. For more information or to book tickets, call 07572283382 or email actinggymnasium@gmail.com.

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