Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 8
Runs until August 5th
The Smock Alley Players present their second production in the new theatre space of the historical venue. Following on from the success of She Stoops to Conquer, they have gone for another classic in the shape of J.M. Synge’s perennial favourite Playboy of the Western World. This play is always a sure fire hit wherever it plays since its very first performance in 1907, but the problem with tackling such well-loved material means that people come to the table with expectations of the production.
Thankfully the Players have stayed very true to the original ethos of the tale of a town that falls under the spell of new arrival Christy Mahon, who claims to have killed his father. No one is more enamoured of him than Pegeen Mike, who runs the local shop and bar. However, she faces stiff competition for his affections from the Widow Quinn and the other women of the town who all see the handsome newcomer as heroic. Unbeknownst to them all though, Christy’s father is not only alive but he is furious with his son for his attempted murder and tracks him down to the small village where his appearance forces the townsfolk to reappraise their attitudes to life, love and loss.
The entire ensemble are wonderful in this production, with Simon Stewart and Andy Quinn both shining as Shawn Keogh and the Widow Quinn respectively. Muiris Crowley and Amanda Coakley have great chemistry as Pegeen and Christy, and Muiris brings an incredible physicality to the roll.
The set is stunningly simple and allows the actors the freedom to let loose while still retaining that sense of a small town local, and the whole production is well-paced and builds well to the frenzied climax.
This is a marvellous take on a well known tale that serves as a reminder of why the Irish have such an excellent reputation in the arts and is a truly entertaining night of theatre.