Writer: Pat McCabe
Director: Padraic McIntyre
Reviewer: Monica Insinga
Pat McCabe and Padraic McIntyre, the successful team that brought us The Dead School, comes back with a national tour of The Bridge Below the Town (that first toured in 2013) with a slightly different cast from the original, but still very strong. In collaboration with NASC Theatre Network, Livin’ Dred Theatre Company started this second tour at their home, Ramor Theatre in Virgina, Cavan; a tour that has now reached its final venue, the Civic Theatre in Tallaght, where last night it started its short run to an almost full house.
McCabe—of Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto’s fame—here explores the pitfalls of provincial life in 1950s and 60s Ireland through the eyes of a mentally frail housewife Golly Murray (Barbara Bergin). In a fragmented style that characterises the plot timeline, the rhythm of the production and is reflected by deft and surreal lighting and sound, the ensemble cast sustains the show with their consistent and skillful performances.
On one hand, Malcolm Adams, Damien Devaney, Gina Moxley, Roseanna Purcell and Janet Moran smoothly switch from character to character acting evenly well together; and I would add that Adams’s Fr. Hand, Moran’s Blossom Foster, Purcell’s Mrs. Boo and Moxley’s Mrs. Miniter give us exceptional roles and not just comic relief. But it’s Bergin’s Golly Murray and her inner instability that is at the core of the drama.
The downward spiral that from the beginning takes the shape of Devaney’s ghostly presence is counterbalanced by the haunting absence of Golly’s dead son. The Bridge Below the Town follows Golly’s hallucinatory and nightmarish journey into the past, marked by a circular movement, identified first by the stooped body of Bergin; second, the first appearance and the final disappearance of Devaney’s “ghost”, ultimately there to remind Golly to take her pills (the only thing that seems to keep the hysteria at bay); and last, the menacing tap noise of the kitchen sink finally silenced by the comforting presence of Patsy (Golly’s husband, played by Adams).
The director, McIntyre, oversees this carefully studied production with mastery. As the character that drives the plot, Bergin’s Golly Murray is adroit, with a few remarkable moments, even though she never rises above the level of the rest of the ensemble. The phantasmagoric combination of set, lighting and sound deserves special mention, since it elevates Bergin’s interpretation of Golly’s confused psyche.
Ending on a hopeful note, reminding the audience of the continuous struggle between heaven and Babylon that provides a subtle undercurrent throughout the play, this production provides quick-witted and sharp entertainment to a wide audience.
Photo courtesy of The Civic Theatre. Runs until Saturday 5th April.