Review: Reckoners

There’s nothing personal (or political) about the revenge cycle in Ross Dungan’s new play. Does that give its characters a better chance of escape?



The Lir


The luridly imagined, tribally riven town of The Stra is busily tearing itself apart. On a set like a crumpled war zone, Conal McCarthy (John Cronin) returns from 22 years in prison and steps into a revenge cycle so unquestioned that even a shy stripling like Jamie McHugh (Manus Halligan) can be persuaded to avenge his clan. As these paths slowly entwine, Ross Dungan’s bleakly comic play braids together familiar strands of Irish theatre: intercutting monologues, warring families, vividly imagistic violence and imaginatively invented dialects, while stridently avoiding real-world politics and sectarianism.

Dungan’s wry, detailed asides are more strikingly individual, quietly seeing tragic men in bars who have “dropped from womb with stool umbilically attached”. And beneath the studied machismo of fear, respect and switchblades runs a more sentimental streak that finds no greater pain (or sustaining plot device) than love lost or unrequited.

A densely populated narrative can confuse the action (were Halligan’s sweet-natured Jamie avenging a brother, rather than a stranger, his dilemma might be sharper), and director Dan Herd falls back on Cameron Macaulay’s music to pick out emotional pivot points. Carefully untangled, Reckoners pursues a simpler path; less an anatomy of revenge but a more hopeful plan of escape.

Until Sep 20