Civic Theatre, Tallaght
Michael Hilliard Mulcahy’s first play fits neatly into the tradition of classic Irish drama. But if the realist structure, small-town setting and preoccupation with home are familiar, the confidence of structure, fluency of dialogue and depth of characterisation are entirely convincing.
Set in the present day in the small coastal town of Brandon, in west Co Kerry, the play begins with a homecoming and is marked by an absence, as a group of fortysomething friends gather to mark their reunion after 20 years.
The last time they were all together they were living in New York. Some returned home, some settled abroad, and one of their group went missing. Over an evening in the almost derelict community hall, they rake over mistakes and mad ambitions, and tease out possible futures.
If the plot veers towards soap opera in the closing moments, Peter Sheridan’s solid production reins in melodramatic excess. As does the uniformly excellent cast. Aidan Dooley seethes with secrets as the guilt-ridden Brendy, running out of dreams. Sorcha Fox carries a whole history in her body language as the practical Mags. Catherine Walsh’s feisty Josie expresses the frustrated sexuality of a loveless marriage. And Ben Hennesseyüs fine, decaying set is a physical metaphor of the characters’ middle age.
The play Beyond the Brooklyn Sky most resembles is Tom Murphy’s Conversations on a Homecoming, from 1985. But this doesn’t mean it is in any way out of date. Indeed, it reminds us of the cycles of history repeating themselves today. “People are still mad to see the world,” says Mags,and the brilliantly lippy teenager Shannon (a joyful Liz Fitzgibbon) ensures that, despite the play’s conversation with tradition, it is also startlingly relevant.
This is a terrific production from Red Kettle and a really promising debut.
Ends at the Civic tomorrow; then at Draoicht, Blanchardstown, Monday and Tuesday; Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Wednesday and Thursday; and Axis, Ballymun, Friday and Saturday
– Sara Keating