Lion and Unicorn Theatre
A girl in a bed and, emerging later from underneath the covers, her dad, though she's not quite sure that he really is her dad - they are a pair trapped together and trapped by life. It's a recurring feature in several of Walsh's plays, sometimes literal, sometimes metaphorical. The polio- ravaged daughter here says her dad has built walls around her but he too seems chained to the bed, never able to stray more than a few feet away as with frenetic drive in almost non-stop monologue he reviews his psychopathic pursuit of his ambitions.
A fifteen year-old with a single suit, that he washed out at night and put on damp each morning, he got his first job in the store-room of Robson's Furniture Emporium. Since then he has bludgeoned his way up the ladder until he now owns three mega furniture stores in Dublin. His elevation began when he discovered his boss has lost his sense of smell. He 'accidentally' doused him with paraffin, his apology claiming it was only water. When said boss lit his fat cigar there was instant immolation, so beginning a pattern of violent removal of those who stood in his way or did not please him.
J.D. Kelleher as Dad delivers this dreadful history with such speed and directness, and Walsh gives him such lovely poetic language, laced with expletives, that you hardly have time to take in its horrors or question how he has evaded legal prosecution. Looking the curly haired romantic, the actor gives him Irish charm and clearly relishes Walsh's writing.
Despite his almost non-stop talking Dad dreams of silence while his daughter desperately wants to fill the empty silent spaces. Literally trapped by a damaged body, she remembers her mother, their bed-time reading of romances and glimpses of happy days. She provides all the other voices in her father's story and one senses that together they are caught like Tantalus in an on-going ritual of repetition. Castigated by her father while she accuses him of imprisoning her, one wonders what darker elements there may be to their relationship. As well as pathos, actress Susan Stanley also brings out a tenderness towards her father that emphasises their interdependence.
The concentration of this production is entirely on the actors and Kate Budgen's direction is most effective in that you are never aware of it and designer Rachel A Smith, who in this small space has wisely seen no need for more setting than the bed surrounded by the audience, has cleared all conventional seating from the theatre and instead provided what could be a selection of the stock from Robson's Furniture Emporium for the audience to sit or perch on for the 60 minutes of this compact and compelling play.
Until 22nd November 2009
Reviewer: Howard Loxton