Writer: Tom Murphy
Director: Garry Hynes
Reviewer: Alan Foran
The Public Reviews Rating:
There is something comforting in watching an excellent production of a play. Seeing a company act their socks off, yet making it seem so effortless, is wonderful. Druid Theatre’s production of Conversations on a Homecoming is one of those evenings.
Michael, played by Marty Rea, is on an unexpected visit back home from New York in the 1970s, and is meeting up with his friends in the village pub they frequented back in the 60s, “The White House”, with a portrait of JFK hanging large on the wall. The set, a one room bar, leaves us in no doubt as to where we are: a rural pub, with nothing elaborate, expressing the drabness and the wanting to be better. A little bit like the characters themselves, perhaps. The pub, back in the day, was a magnet for more openminded and hopeful people, even a little bit radical as well.
In the course of the friends ‘conversations’, reminiscences and arguments, we get glimpses of their past. The only window we have to piece it all together is their own views and interpretations of events, which include comments and stories about the man who owns the pub, JJ. What we get is a study of people, their views and change. Thankfully, there is humour peppered throughout. The script contains lovely turns of phrases, while remaining true to the characters and the time.
The strength of the acting is amazing. Everyone in the cast gives it their all; total commitment to the piece and the story they are telling. There are no exceptions to this, it is truly an ensemble performance, bringing the reality of the moments to life and punching them out into the audience. Druid have assembled a very strong cast to deliver this compelling, intriguing drama, and would be unfair to single any one actor out. They also act for nearly 2 hours, as there is no interval, making it, in reality, a long 1 act play. But the rhythm of the piece would be broken up badly if there was one. As well as that, this play is part of the Druid Murphy Trilogy being put on for the Dublin Theatre Festival, so they have to alternate through three plays over a two week period.
This production, with a wonderful set designed by Francis O’Connor, and Chris Davey’s lighting, moves subtly to enhance the evening without making a song and dance over it, really sucks you in, as if you were sitting only a couple of tables down, making it a compelling night at the theatre. And it doesn’t dip into sentimentality either.
All this is a credit to Garry Hynes, an extremely gifted director, that has pulled together an evening that is both theatrical and very real. Added to it are lovely touches, like the rhythmic sound of the glasses being placed down on the tables. It is the stuff that theatre is made of: entertaining, thoughtful and full of outstanding performances from start to finish.
Runs until 13 October
Conversations on a Homecoming - Gaiety Theatre, Dublin,