Above: Patrick Farelly, Penny Murphy, and Brian Hinselwood. Below right: Meg
Hinselwood and Patrick Farelly. Photos by Dan Ryan,
By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Rod Felsch
Centenary Theatre Group
Chelmer Community Hall
Corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets
Season runs until October 6. Bookings: on-line at www.centenarytheatre.com.au or phone 0435 591 720. Running time: two hours with interval.
This is a delightful little play with a gem of a 40 minute second act. Although written by an American playwright, it is set in Ireland and is about as Irish as you get with meandering romance and quaint one liners like “your mother will never be dead while you are alive”.
The play follows two generations of the Reilly and Muldoon families. Their farming families in modern-day rural Ireland have been neighbours for generations, but a lingering dispute over a tiny parcel of land has incensed Reilly patriarch Tony and Muldoon matriarch Aoife. It threatens to poison the relationship between their children. It covers a five-year period, opens following a family funeral.
It’s a four-hander, with the pair of oldies -Tony played by Brian Hinselwood and Aoife, played by Penny Murphy. Then there are the middle-aged singles Rosemary, Meg Hinselwood, and Anthony, played by Patrick Farelly, who live on adjoining farms.
While the oldies waffle on about how long they have left in this world Anthony, a painfully shy Irish farmer, who has happily watched 42 years crawl by, worries about his future.
Meanwhile his headstrong neighbour, Rosemary, has had her eye on him for years. Now disinheritance, a land feud between families and improbable romance slips into the mix. Aoife, with some neatly delivered comic dialogue from Penny Murphy, tries to talk Tony into leaving the farm to his son rather than a nephew in the US. Anthony has tended the farm faithfully if not lovingly for most of his life.
The dialogue is poetic and mostly well delivered with credible Irish accents helped along by the fact that Patrick Farelly is actually Irish. Although in the first act I had some trouble I hearing Tony’s deathbed speech.
Rhyll Bucknell’s three-location set worked well and was nicely lit by Tristan Holland.
The first act wandered gently from point to point with some love, some doubts and fear, a little Irish darkness and a lot of light as the characters formed nicely. The family feuds and mystic beliefs of family names and attributes were set out to amuse as they did. Brian Hinselwood and Penny Murphy were an entertaining pair of oldies.
The second act was brilliant as Meg Tinselwood and Patrick Farelly took over.
Both the oldies had passed on and Anthony made his first ever visit to Rosemary’s house. To watch the blundering man and the determined woman teeter on the edge of romance was joy and produced a continuous stream of chuckles from the audience. The actors were perfectly cast by director Rod Felsch.
Rosemary determinedly spurred and teased Anthony slowly out of his shyness and self doubt and so unleashed years of suppressed desire and ambition. It was a highly satisfactory ending to a happy evening in theatre.