Writer: Richard Molloy
Director: Simon Evans
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Set in Dublin in 1995 The Separation, written by Richard Molloy, is the story of a broken marriage, a broken home and a broken man.
Stephen, played by David Murray, and Molly, played by Susan Stanley, stumble into Stephen’s apartment on a rainy summer evening. Having succumbed to temptation at the previous Christmas party the duo seem to be picking up where they left off, but Stephen’s estranged wife and daughter make a dramatic return to his life compromising everything.
The Separation gets off to a slow start. Both Murray and Stanley are notably rigid and the script seems slightly twee, however as the production progresses these issues dissolve making room for a more sincere performance. Murray comes into his own midway through, revealing slowly and effectively the true personality of his character with convincing and slightly disturbing reality. Roxanna Nic Liam played Gerty, Stephen’s daughter, and her entrance marks the turning point in the performance. Nic Liam is fantastic in her rôle, providing both a convincing and amusing performance. As the tension grows between Stephen and his wife Marion, played by Carrie Crowley, the play becomes darker and more revealing.
Molloy chooses to set this piece in 1995 right before the Referendum on Divorce (which passed) reiterating a stigma that has, for the most part, dropped out of contemporary Ireland. It is an unusual throwback and one thinks that it would work just as well in a contemporary context. Although consistent and entertaining the provision of such an outdated context seems unnecessary, even though the laws have remained the same.
The set, designed by Amy Jane Cook, is simple. The apartment shows every sign of its era with a combined medley of VHS tapes, CDs and the subtle, yet effective, removal of the “woman’s touch”. Lighting plays an important rôle and Zia Holly’s lighting design creates an effective tone that works fluidly with the production. The sound, designed by Edward Lewis, however intrudes too much during the scene breaks, creating an ominous feeling that is a tad too obvious. The final sound-scape works as an ending but felt too intrusive otherwise.
The Separation is a story about the deterioration of a family unit and the father figure responsible for making it happen. Its most troubling moments are its finest, displaying a rawness that makes you uncomfortable but keep you actively engaged. Dark and funny in the right amounts, this is a balanced, consistent and provocative performance.
Photo courtesy of Project Arts Centre. Runs until June 14th.