Roaming the fringes of Youghal

Peter Gowen’s latest work is a tale of our times, told by an idiot savant

The Chronicles of Oggle
Everyman Palace, Cork


For those with a prejudice against unwieldy titles, it should be noted that in The Chronicles of Oggle we are hearing the chronicles of Eochail, otherwise known as Youghal in Co Cork.

In Peter Gowen's work, this corruption is essential to the text, for its single character Pakie has a talent for mis- hearing, mis-pronunciation and therefore, all too often, misunderstanding. The comic potential of this affliction enlivens what is a tale of our times, told by a man best described as a wise fool, an idiot savant rescued from the Christian Brothers and lumbered with a sense of place, time and community as if reared on a diet of Blackadder episodes.


For all his frailty, Pakie sees his world through a mist of insight and intuition, feeling his way through a system that moves too fast for him. As a result, the audience is offered a slanted look at the familiar; the references and connections are all here, ready to be picked up, except that Pakie either turns them inside out or kicks them aside.

This is startling, enjoyable and sad. What’s missing, however, is shape. The 90-minute monologue is richly laced with an entire townscape of people, recreated by the adult Pakie as he roams around the breakers on Youghal’s long and winding strand.

Embraced by the responsive lighting from Eoin Winning and by Irene Buckley's austere sound, Pakie's odyssey needs a tougher definition than director Donal Gallagher's sensitive approach. At its heart, the piece is dark material. Gowen's sharply faceted performance seems to select events the way others might pick mushrooms in a forest before wandering back home.

Neither intention nor discernment are lacking but a core thread of reverie is unresolved in a play that fades rather than ends.
Until tomorrow, then tours

Mary Leland

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