An Apple a Day

Elizabeth Connor
London Irish Rep
Kingsgate Theatre, Kilburn

An Apple a Day

New York has long had an Irish Rep company so it is not before time that the London Irish Rep appears on the scene. It could not have chosen a more auspicious time to launch, since 2016 marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin’s fair city.

Gavin McAlinden’s company has created an ambitious season featuring three plays, all produced in a new space at the Kingsgate Theatre, just around the corner from the Tricycle in Kilburn.

An Apple a Day by Elizabeth Connor first saw the light of day at the Abbey almost three-quarters of a century ago and has apparently never been performed again.

It is ostensibly a charming comedy that is something of a morality tale, which also shines a light on the insularity of Irish country folk in the middle of the last century.

The action takes place in the comfortable Carrigmahon home / dispensary of friendly veteran Dr Richard Burke, played with calm veracity by Bernard O’Sullivan.

As the Chekhovian crowds muster, the audience swiftly discovers that the locals are as protective of their medical dynasty as Russian noblemen were of their Czar.

The powers that be have apparently decided that the time has come to replace Dr Burke with a newer model. The likely consequence is that he and his family will be forced to move out, along with a number of frightful supernumeraries.

Everyone pulls together to protect the town so that already half a dozen putative pretenders to the throne have been seen off in murky circumstances.

The latest hopeful is Michael Mahoney’s Dr Gavin Barry. He is made of somewhat sterner stuff than his predecessors, at least making it through the front door alive if cold, wet and despondent.

There, he is met by what appear to be a whole troupe of mad men and women. These include no fewer than three female members of the doctor’s family.

Claire Langford is well cast in the role of Janet, despite the doctor’s obvious interest as unfriendly as she is attractive.

Carole Dance as her Aunt Tottie is obsessed by the afterlife, while Janet’s 14-year-old younger sister Anne is rather sweet as spoiled brats go, giving the excellent Lauren McGarvey the opportunity to play the violin excruciatingly badly.

There are some similarities between this piece and another play in the season, The Playboy of the Western World, with several twists and turns particularly after the aspiring doctor proves to be patient and frankly rather lovable, aided by a well-balanced performance from Michael Mahoney.

An Apple a Day may not be the deepest play but it certainly deserves this revival, which is great fun even though the acting can be very uneven.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher