The Dreamers of Inishdara

Peter Dunne

Primrose Hill Productions in association with the Jermyn Street Theatre

Jermyn Street Theatre

(2008)

Review by Ben Aitken

Dick Branigan, the aging, dishevelled Dubliner with a cut-throat business nose, wields both a sawn-off pitchfork and a mercenary plan to transform the magical pastures of Inishdara into a profitable swamp of concrete, business and pitch and putts.

Peter Dunne excels as Dick - managing to render a gruff and heartless conspirator faintly lovable - but slightly errs as the author of this ethereal rom-com that strikes as a bold blend of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Father Ted.

As Dick attempts to oust the sole resident of Inishdara - Gemma-Leah Devereux's French maid-fairy Leanah Dubh- off the land of his late brother (Holy Jo Branigan embarked on a monkish pilgrimage to Egypt seven years previous), a host of consciously unbelievable skeletons meander out of closets.

Dunne's inclination for poetic romanticism is evident. Wilde and Byron, on whom Dunne based earlier plays, are obvious and welcomed influences on a text that brims with rich, pagan enchantment and taut, tumbling comedy.

Despite the action being bolstered by contributions from a rasping leprechaun in carrot coloured pyjamas (Patricia Quinn of The Rocky Horror Show), a priest bent on saving Ireland from spiritless secular oblivion (Johan Buckingham) and a King Fairy posing as a luckless, cupid-delivered wanderer (Stephen Eliot-McDonald), the play doesn't quite master the cunning and boldness that underpin its mandate.

Dunne, quite admirably, strives to conjure theatrical magic, but patches of loose plotting, some less than vital characters and bursts of bloated, sermonic dialogue dent its impact.

The set is Leanah Dubh's post-modern art studio. Despite Dick's objection to the work on display ("You can frame a pig's arse and call it art these days."), David Webb has created a bohemian tavern teeming with bric-a-brac: a portrait of the Dalai Lama, an array of avant-garde postcards, various weaponry and witch's tools.

The closet-like intimacy of this West-end fringe studio (to get to the toilet one has to trespass over the stage) adds to the occasion. What was once the male changing room of an Italian restaurant (fortunately, no odours or meatballs remain to bear testament to the fact), is now a subterranean theatre whose self-imposed remit is to champion new talent.

The return of the not-so-late Holy Jo Branigan, rightful landlord of Inishdara, derails his wily brother's wily enterprise. In a charmingly forced and complete resolution, Leanah weds her royal suitor - Crow Murphy International - and learns that her father, once the recipient of some fairy loving, is none other than duplicitous Dick.

As the wedding celebrations commence, Dave from Essex arrives with a bulldozer and instructions to use it unsparingly. Dick, heady with the news that he is the parent of an imp, calls off his expansionist designs and the spirit of Inishdara is saved from ruin.