Lovers review: Friel sorts the winners from the losers
The poetry remains intact in this revival of Brian Friel’s 1967 drama
Date Reviewed: July 9th, 2015
The subtitle of Brian Friel’s Lovers designates its two acts as Winners and Losers. The thrust of the work suggests that the winners win because they die and the losers lose because they live.
The playwright’s proposition is supported by literary references and inferences and musically questioned by John O’Brien’s score for his piano accompaniment, rippling as it does to the metaphorical nuances of the script.
The winners are a teenage couple facing their final school examinations and their necessary wedding. Revising their subjects – she with a reluctant awareness that there may be more to life than her desire to murder all the nuns in the world, he with a commitment to a future as a science teacher – they sit on a high and windy hill and talk as if their immediate life in a flat above a slaughterhouse were merely an interval.
Despite her Alice band, Margaret is saved from winsome idiocy by Mary-Lou McCarthy’s grasp of adolescent fervour. Equally, Timmy Creed provides a credible Joe even when he unleashes a fantasy of exuberant executions on his entire community.
Defying the play’s date of the innocent 1960s, director Julie Kelleher keeps pace and energy flowing, although there’s a noticeable lack of a physical passion strong enough, especially in ignorant teenagers whose life is a guessing game, to create their dilemma in the first place.
There is no such lack in Losers, where adult lovers are thwarted, even after marriage, by a bed-bound mother with a bell. Friel’s use of poetry as an aphrodisiac, offers splendidly comic and fully realised opportunities to Ciaran Bermingham and Fionula Linehan.
Again, O’Brien’s commentary picks up with an almost music-hall inclination the sad hilarity of the piece as Eoin Winning’s lighting brightens like a halo above the triumphant matriarchal pillows. Until July 25th