It’s always nice to have a few days to really think about a play – let its story settle into your memory and allow all the different observations play themselves out before you formulate some coherent thoughts to share. It’s been 4 days since I’ve seen Landmark Productions’ Misterman, as part of the Galway Arts Festival, and I’m still in two minds about whether I loved the play or not.
Needless to say Cillian Murphy gave a really great performance, his storytelling abilities are fantastic and he was so well able to bring all the different characters in Thomas’ head to life, that in some ways I think if it was just Thomas and his tape recorders on stage, the play would have been more impressive to me. I know I’m definitely in a minority though when I say that. I’m very aware that many have been hugely impressed by the production.
The story itself is quite absorbing – Thomas Magill holds huge resentment for the variety of characters he interacts with from his small home town and details the sinful activities of each in his notebook, in between replaying over and over again interviews he has taped with a whole host of characters – think Krapp’s Last Tape minus the bananas.
However Thomas does not just judge others, he also punishes some, with great violence which reveals a darker and more terrifying side to this otherwise quirky and entertaining character. Predicably Thomas goes too far with his punishments, and his neighbours decide they’ve had enough.
My taste in theatre particularly relishes a stage stripped bare with very little props or special effects (with a few exceptions of course) – for instance I thought the horse was too much of a prop in Sam Shepard’s “Kicking a Dead Horse”, yeah I know, I’m a weirdo. I love a monologue where the actor’s story telling abilities are allowed to ring true. For the most part this is what happened in Misterman but there were a few moments when I thought the production got a little too fussy and distracted from the colourful stories being told by a very animated Thomas. Thomas is such a lively, Walter Mittyesque character that I think he alone could carry the story – for me, I’m not so sure that things falling from the ceiling, rain machines and roll out grass were completely necessary.
As I said, I do know I’m in the minority that thinks that and I was won over by a great story being told by someone with the ability to completely transform themselves into a multitude of characters on stage; it’s just that at that point, everything else was superflous.
It’s been a little while since I posted here. I enjoyed a wonderful 3 weeks in Australia, taking in the gorgeous cities of Sydney and Melbourne, ate lots of food, drank loads of beer and wine and enjoyed time with family in Australia. Returned to the horrible news of the passing of a beloved pet (17 years is good for a well taken care of – maybe too well taken care of Shih Tzu however and nobody wants a good, gentle dog to suffer before they die).
Anyways, traumatic pet bereavements aside; I am very much looking forward to tomorrow because I’m taking a trip to Galway to see Landmark Production’s Misterman. I’m going to put my hands up and say I’ve never actually see an Enda Walsh play before (ok go on, shoot me!), however I did see Cillian Murphy in the film version of Disco Pigs and was suitably impressed so that kinda counts doesn’t it?
I have however seen a Landmark Productions’ play before – Knives and Hens which to date is tying with The Peacock’s production of Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow as the best play I’ve ever seen.
I’ve done the mandatory Twitter search for “Misterman” and it seems to be going down a treat, and with the play completely booked out I’m glad I managed to secure a ticket to this production. It’s a pity it’s not coming to Dublin or going abroad – even to London, but I’m guessing Cillian Murphy isn’t exactly stuck for work at the mo’.
Does it ever strike anyone how weird play trailers are? I dunno, there has to be a more creative way of doing a trailer for a play. I’m not criticising Landmark directly, they’re doing exactly what every other production company does – but surely, coming from an industry full of creative people they could come up with something a bit different and more engaging than a montage of quotes and images – I guess budget restrains creativity in this regard.
Anyways, non engaging trailer below:
“Absolutely Not!”, this was the answer playwright David Harrower gave to one audience member who asks him if any particular literary theory influenced him when he chose to write Knives in Hens, the current offering from Landmark Productions in the beautifully renovated Smock Alley Theatre. Such a refreshing answer to a play which could have been overly intellectualised and complicated by literary discussions and theories. The writer, along with director Alan Gilsenan and cast members – Catherine Walker, Vincent Regan and Lorcan Cranitch stayed on after last night’s show to answer audience questions.
The performance beforehand was outstanding and a real treat. Knives in Hens is a rich play soaked in old Scottish peasant tales, but given a richer feel with the concentration on the “Woman” character and her relationship with her husband – Pony William. Really the play on one level is the story of the tension between the Ploughman – Pony William (Regan) and the Miller (Cranitch), but on another more emotional level, it is the story of the journey which Woman, beautifully played by Walker takes as she realises the demise of her marriage and the recognition of her inner thoughts, symbolised by her writing and her developing relationship with the Miller. I won’t give any more away, other than to say that it is an extremely touching play, and a lot of credit should be given to the cast who really give it their all to depict quite complex characters.
The thing which really struck me as soon as I walked into the theatre was of course what an amazing venue Smock Alley has become. The old stone walls and high ceiling really give it an air of history and you definetely feel like you are somewhere special when you arrive in. Gilsenan and his designer Joe Vanek, really take full advantage of the setting and set the play on a 360 stage with the audience sitting on church pews (after 2.5 hours, you will have a VERY sore derriere….bring a cushion!), thus becoming the “villagers” witnessing the events of the play. The flat rectangular stage was scattering with soil and hay to represent the fields of the Scottish highlands, with one end playing host to a stable – the Ploughman’s house and the other end hosting a Mill – the miller’s house. With both the mill and the stable being built up against the wall, the side which I was seated was adjacent, so I missed seeing any action taking place in the mill or the stable, however I totally agree with what Gilsenan said during the post performance talk in that it adds to the play as each audience member witnesses something different. Not being able to see the events but hear them left it to my own imagination to figure out what was going on – that’s my kind of theatre!!
The play itself was extremely aesthetic with music from Eleanor Dawson throughout and beautiful scenes using water, flour and soil all rooting the play very much in a natural, rural setting. The play culminates in a striking scene with Woman helping a horse deliver a foal which proved to be quite an epiphany for woman as she realises her worth in life.
It really is such a beautiful play, so well written, performed and directed backed up by a wonderful setting and stage design. It’s well worth a trip – definitely one to take a trip out into the cold and wet for! Only downside – the seats!
Until Nov. 28th
For tickets, visit the Projects Art Centre website.
Filed under Dublin, Theatre