‘The Good Father’ and ‘Minding Frankie’: this week’s best theatre

An unlikely couple face up to parenthood, and Maeve Binchy’s evergreen story

Daniel Monaghan and Marie Ruane in The Good Father

Daniel Monaghan and Marie Ruane in The Good Father

 

The Good Father

Viking Theatre, Clontarf, Dublin. Ends May 12th, 8pm, €15, vikingtheatredublin.com

An early success for the writer Christian O’Reilly, first produced by Druid Theatre Company in 2002, The Good Father is a sweet story of a mismatched couple who meet accidentally and get more than they bargain for. Tim, a working-class lad from a dysfunctional family, and Jane, a heartbroken posh woman, find each other at a drunken New Year’s party, and with a heedless rush of attraction and few precautions, she gets pregnant. Despite every sign to the contrary, and with some consideration of alternative options, they decide to have the child together. With that decision Tim gains a new momentum, determined to earn the tribute of the title, but Jane is mostly drifting along, and the chasm between them is not easily bridged. Rise Productions revisited the play recently, now revived for another run, with Aonghus óg McAnally directing Daniel Monaghan and Marie Ruane in the expectant roles.

Minding Frankie

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. May 8th-12th, 7.30pm, €26-€37, gaietytheatre.ie

“I knew you were a good man,” Stella tells Noel during this tender adaptation of Maeve Binchy’s 2010 novel. “A man who could mind someone.” This comes as some surprise to Noel (lovably played by Steve Blount), feckless and fidgeting, and for many years very hard drinking. Equally surprising is the news that he is to be a father, with a salty Dublin woman now facing death. The guardianship of this work by Binchy, our national laureate of the bittersweet, is Shay Linehan who whittles the cast down to two protagonists, Noel and the social worker Moira Tierney (played by the staggeringly versatile Clare Barrett), the first determined to prove himself worthy, the second determined to prove he is not. They both make compelling cases.

Director Peter Sheridan keeps things cosy, treating Noel’s alcoholism with comedy wobbling and repentant hangovers, tilting sunnily towards redemption. That attitude, together with an automatic deference to religion might seem safely confined to the 1980s. But, like Noel’s alcoholism, there’s a shameful culture beneath its surface from which we’re still reeling. The show prefers to shield us from harsher realities, though, caring for us as best it can.

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