Halcyon Days: Spark of life in a nursing home

Barry McGovern and Una Crawford O’Brien bring energy and authenticity to Deirdre Kinahan’s subtle and solid play

Halcyon

Smock Alley Theatre
★★★☆☆

Sean and Patricia are an unlikely pair. He is world-weary, forgetful and unfailingly polite. She is bullish, buoyant, and full of energy, refusing to take age or a terminal diagnosis lying down. They meet in the conservatory of a nursing home, where, as Patricia sees it, they have both been "incarcerated". Does Sean have "friends on the inside"? Patricia wants to know, and she sets about ensuring that he does: her.

Deirdre Kinahan’s 2013 one-act play is deeper than it seems on its comedic surface level, offering representation to a much neglected older community. Through Sean and Patricia, she gives voice to their frustrations and fears, their physical and sexual desires and decline. In Barry McGovern and Una Crawford O’Brien Kinahan’s two characters have found wonderful interpreters.

McGovern’s Sean is a genial gentleman with a defensive edge when pushed. He gives a performance that is emotionally open and physically frail. Crawford O’Brien, meanwhile, oozes vim, vitality and vulnerability, as a woman in denial about her mortality, and finally defiant of it. Their twilit communion is beautiful to watch, as they bond over film, fall out over crossed wires, and eventually reunite with a daring escape plan that does not come to fruition. However, it is the promise of it that lights them up, so perhaps its failure is not so important.

Unfortunately, the staging by Joe Devlin fails to support the actors. A flimsy set by Andy Murray and functional lighting design from Tom Kennedy barely establishes the indoor/outdoor settings and the different times of day at which the action unfolds, nor does it provide a physical or emotional accentuation of the scenes. Basic sound design, meanwhile, distracts from rather than enhances the production. It is a real pity, because McGovern and Crawford O’Brien bring a wonderful energy and authenticity to Kinahan’s subtle and solid short play.

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Halcyon Days tours throughout March and April to the following venues: Pavilion Theatre March 15th; Mermaid Arts Centre, March 16th; Dunamaise Arts Centre, March 19th; Everyman Palace, March 21st-23rd; Siamsa Tíre, March 26th; Solstice Arts Centre, March 30th; An Táin Arts Centre, March 31st; Townhall Theatre, Cavan, April 1st; Linenhall, Castlebar, April 2nd.