Award-winning play a tough sell
By Margaret Wieringa
Sharky has returned to his blind, alcoholic older brother Richard just before Christmas. For a change, Sharky is not drinking. On Christmas Eve, they have several visitors and a card game takes place, with only Sharky aware of just how high the stakes truly are.
fortyfive downstairs was an excellent space to house Richard’s lounge room, the only set of the performance. The wind gushing down the laneway and the old floorboards added ambience to that created by the old furniture and dim walls (although so many of Guinness and other Irish brand alcohol posters seemed unnecessary to set the scene).
Overall, the play dragged. The script by Conor McPherson has been nominated for a variety of awards including the Laurence Olivier and several Tony awards, but it felt very long and repetitive and, at times, boring. There were several times when it was necessary to get Sharky and Mr Lockhart alone, but the way the other characters were removed from the scene was clumsy and obvious.
It is a script with a lot of dialogue, which can run the risk of losing crucial dramatic silences. There were some attempts to create these moments, most notably from Sharky, whose near silence in the second act is a big change from his verbosity in the first, but it seemed far too contrived. And somehow in all of these weighty moments, the heavy truths that are to be revealed are lost, and the emotional lows were unclear.
The mismatched ages did create some confusion as to why these five people were in a room together at all, but despite the terrible drunken staggering, the somewhat average Irish accents and a rude audience with phones ringing several times (even during crucial scenes), each of the five actors had moments that worked really well in the performance. As Ivan, Adam Rafferty had a few lovely incidents of storytelling portraying a character who can wax lyrical and dig himself into the odd hole. Mr Lockhart, played by Michael Cahill, gave an excellent description of the hell that a man can feel, while David Passmore captured the jovial edginess of Nicky, and Geoff Hickey and Barry Mitchell were able to show the challenges of a strained relationship between brothers with much regret and pain in their history.
Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: 30 July – August 10
Bookings: 9662 9966 or http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/buy-tickets/?event=seafarer