The Gigli Concert

Tom Murphy

Finborough Theatre

(2005)

Review by Philip Fisher

After his success with Gates of Gold at the end of last year, Gavin McAlinden has brought another Irish play to the Finborough. He has also managed to draw an excellent cast to the tiny pub-theatre.

The Gigli Concert is a psychological drama that is effectively a two-and-three-quarter hour two-hander with a couple of injections of femininity. These are provided by the down-to-earth, or by her own description, "vulgar" Mona (Catherine Cusack).

Paul McGann plays a dishevelled Dublin dynamatologist called Jimmy King. In English, his vocation would translate as quack psychiatrist, if he ever had a patient. His spacious consulting room, perfectly realised by designer Vicki Fifield, doubles as his home, thanks to the creature comforts of a divan and a gallon of vodka.

As he is preparing to give it up, he receives a visit from Niall Buggy playing a millionaire property developer without a name. This despairing man explains that he wants to sing like the famous operatic tenor, Beniamino Gigli. In fact, he needs to give a shape and meaning to his life.

Despite his problems, it doesn't take long for the relationship to become mutually dependent, as the healer seems to have as many problems as his patient. The forlorn love of one woman and the temporary nature of his affair with another, Mona leave him marginally the better bet for suicide.

Over a sozzled weekend of opera and personal discovery, the pair manage to achieve a measure of closure and release by means that must be regarded as unorthodox, even within the quack community.

McAlinden never shows urgency in his direction but the consequential stately pace suits the play, though it puts a lot of trust in his actors to maintain attention. Niall Buggy does so wonderfully through raw emotion and occasionally ear-splitting volume while Paul McGann derives sympathy from his character's haphazard life and existential angst. Miss Cusack gets a devastating blow in at the end too.

The Gigli Concert is a welcome London return for Tom Murphy, an excellent Irish playwright who loses out to the flashier attractions of the younger generation and the greater fame of Brian Friel. It would be good to see more of his work here and perhaps Gavin McAlinden is the man to achieve this.