Review: God Bless the Child

A thoroughly enjoyable parcelling of three of Frank O’Connor’s short stories

God Bless the Child

Everyman, Cork


This retelling by director Patrick Talbot of three of Frank O'Connor's most famous short stories begs the question: are these pieces appreciated only by people familiar with the geography and patois of Cork's working class? The answer has to be that the universality of O'Connor's writing can be taken almost for granted.


That "almost" is what makes this Talbot Productions and Everyman collaboration so entertaining. Locality is hinted rather than emphasised, adding flavour to stories that are already spiced with humour. The stories selected from O'Connor's legacy are My Oedipus Complex, The Genius and First Confession, which are adapted without being compressed by Talbot's method of direct narrative presentation.

There is some mild interplay between the characters, portrayed with skill by Shane Casey, Gary Murphy and Liam Heffernan, who inhabit their roles with the intelligence necessary to catch O'Connor's wisdom as well as his comedy. Apart from the unifying repetition of school-bell prayers, the style is episodic. Talbot's decision to avoid an overtly theatrical presentation enhances the appeal of the stories and their three protagonists, who, in Talbot's cleverest manipulation of his script, pause as if for breath at precise moments. The demand is for attention, and the sense of engagement is enhanced by the cheerful use of props as indicators rather than characterisation.

While avoiding straying into burlesque, there is too much boyish prancing, and the hymn-laden sound effects deserve more time. All the other demands are met, including the proper allowance of two syllables to words such as “shawl”, and the melancholy conclusion that it is “a poor, sad, lonesome thing being nothing but a genius”.

Jim Queally’s laundry-hung set of high monastery windows, Mary Newman’s costume design, and Paul Denby’s lighting are all attuned to this thoroughly enjoyable parcelling of three of Ireland’s best short stories.

Until July 26

Mary Leland

Mary Leland is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture