The Print Room,
Notting Hill, London until April 27
BALLYBEG beckons once more as Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney pitches up in Notting Hill this month.
The Co. Tyrone playwright’s fictional Donegal town has been re-envisioned by director Abigail Graham at the Print Room, an intimate theatre space in a converted warehouse.
There a trio of Irish actors who bring the cautionary tale to life in gritty Friel style — reminding us that the grass is so rarely greener on the other side.
We find the town, where we first met our Philadelphia, Here I Come chums and the Dancing at Lughnasa ladies, also contains the feckless, flighty but ‘enthusiastic’ Frank Sweeney, played with vigour albeit with a few opening week nerves by Ruairi Conaghan.
Conaghan, Dorothy Duffy and Stuart Graham give their best in the three-man production based on a series of monologues, which — with little on-stage action and no character interaction whatsoever – is something of a tall bill in a small room.
But the team effectively tell Frank’s tale and we watch with sceptical incredulity as he marries Molly with grand visions of curing her blindness, but holding a more obvious desire to satisfy his own unrelenting need to achieve something ‘fascinating’.
Duffy is truly engaging as our project/protagonist, played with a childlike quality and the energy and pathos to suit, as she is railroaded into two bouts of sight-restoring surgery to satisfy her fidgety husband and his unfounded need to save her.
Equally, Graham takes on the accomplished surgeon Mr Rice with authority and precision, in one of the more convoluted characters of the piece. Tied up in the knots of his own existence, Friel’s cleverly constructed Doctor descends further than either Frank or Molly into his own hellish reality, as the side-effects of his god-playing ‘miracle’ surgery begin to unravel.
Having failed to offer a voice of reason when the ‘ebullient’ Mr Sweeney came knocking, the Doctor is ultimately left to squirm in the mire of his consequences, where the once blind and content Molly finds herself in an unknown and unwanted world, far uglier than she had ever imagined — the world also unhappily inhabited by the husband and Doctor who dragged her there.
Molly Sweeney runs at the Print Room in Notting Hill until April 27.