The Bruising of Clouds

The third and final play for Fishamble by Sean McLoughlin has a gathering storm that is simply dispelled

The Bruising of Clouds
Axis, Ballymun

The title of Sean McLoughlin's third and final play for Fishamble is a little misleading. (It is his final play because the writer will henceforth be known as Sammy Gleeson. ) That title contains a poetic forecast of looming storms or precipitous action, but the setting (a flat in Fairview), the structure (six scenes of meandering dialogue spread over the course of two months) and the subtitle (A Dublin Love Story) all suggest something more unassuming.

McLoughlin’s play seems curiously unsure of itself: it is billed as a romcom, and played with casual charm, but it skirts more complex issues, such as mental health, which it prefers not to address directly.

We first meet Martin (in a warm, unshowy performance by Ian Lloyd Anderson) returning home catatonically drunk with the assistance of Kelly (Seána Kerslake) and her boyfriend Deano (Ryan Andrews), who live upstairs. Struck by a picture of the singer Ian Brown, a near-religious icon for a particular generation, Kelly returns to the home of this "lovely young fella". Neither Martin, nor the play, can offer any persuasive reason for her attraction. Perhaps, like McLoughlin, she is drawn to obviously troubled Dublin males.


Martin stumbles with a heavy limp and a painful secret, speaks of spirituality, writes terrible poetry, and explains away his early-morning drinking as an opportunity to “wet the soul”. As in McPherson plays, such deeply complicated males tend to attract deeply simplified females, and while Kerslake is engaging, her function is to lever up Martin’s sensitivity, aggression and inner torment, as he showers her with gifts and gives up alcohol only to make her his new intoxicant. Kelly is interesting only for her conspicuous materialism and inconspicuous morality – her biggest desire is for a boob job, which Martin intends to fund.

That a play can be so limited in concern yet so sprawling in dialogue seems to be McLoughlin's signature: both Noah and the Tower Flower and Big Ole Piece of Cake displayed a similar fascination with the curlicues of conversation, anecdotes and trivial detail, blurting out significant plot points as though in afterthought, then forgetting about them as quickly. If McLoughlin sticks to the surface, neither director Jim Culleton nor designer Sinead O'Hanlon (who frames the stage with a patchwork of doors and windows) will delve much further, and the play doesn't conclude so much as stop. The clouds gather but are quickly dispelled. On tour until October 12

Peter Crawley

Peter Crawley

Peter Crawley, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about theatre, television and other aspects of culture