Standing ovation in NY as Murphy's 'Misterman' role mesmerises audience


STAGING THE drama of a lonely dysfunctional man from rural Ireland who commits a terrible act may seem a dubious way to better Ireland’s reputation abroad, but Enda Walsh’s Mistermangoes a way towards doing just that.

The one-man play starring Cillian Murphy opened on Sunday at the trendy St Ann’s Warehouse theatre in Brooklyn, and the New York audience gave it a standing ovation.

It was Murphy’s stage debut in the United States, and a host of famous performers turned out to see it.

Actress Susan Sarandon came to a preview, and the Riverdancestar Jean Butler attended the opening night.

Misterman premiered at the Galway Arts Festival in the summer, where it drew large crowds.

“It was a huge success, the biggest hit we’ve ever had – sell-out shows, 18 sell-out performances,” said Paul Fahy, the artistic director of Galway Arts Festival.

After that, there was a worldwide interest in the play.

St Ann’s Warehouse has staged three of Enda Walsh’s other dramas and it was a natural venue for Mistermanin New York, which is co-produced by Galway Arts Festival and Landmark productions and sponsored by Imagine Ireland and St Ann’s Warehouse.

The role draws fully on Murphy’s talents. He plays a range of different characters, as well as the central figure of the loner Thomas.

“Mesmerising” was the most common word members of the audience used to convey their sense of the play, although some found it hard to grapple with.

“I was confused, I guess,” said Isaac Miller (21), who studies creative writing and theatre. “But there were moments where I was completely sucked in to Cillian’s acting. So I enjoyed it a lot.”

Enda Walsh said he does not try to make it easy for audiences. “You just go at it. I’ve never made any allowances, ever,” he told The Irish Times.

The language of Misterman is intensely Irish, and at one point Murphy speaks some lines in Irish. Walsh didn’t expect this to trouble New York audiences.

“My work has always been local. And the more parochial you make it the more global it becomes.”

Walsh and Murphy are long-time friends and live close by one another in London. Mistermancame about over cups of tea at the kitchen table of Walsh’s home in Kilburn.

Walsh explained their attitude to drama.

“We have a shared sense of humour and also we have a shared abandon. We figure, we’re only around for a little bit so we might as well try and do something that surprises us and that we don’t understand, and be brave with the work.”

To Eleanor Alper, a Brooklyn local, the themes of Misterman were as universal as they were Irish.

“It’s a brilliant play,” she said. “The play – no matter what you’ve experienced – gets to you.”