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Playboy of the Western World

J M Synge
London Irish Rep
Kingsgate Theatre, Kilburn

Maria Quinn as Pegeen Mike Credit: Mandy Gasson
Dylan Kennedy as Christy Mahon Credit: Mandy Gasson
Bernard O'Sullivan as Old Mahon and Clare Langford as Widow Quinn Credit: Mandy Gasson

Asked about his approach to J M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, Gavin McAlinden, the director of the London Irish Rep’s production, explained that he had tried to convey the lightness of the humour and the "Hibernian methodology of the language".

This and much more is achieved in this fine show at the Kingsgate Theatre in Kilburn.

The play is set in a rural public house where Pegeen Mike (Maria Quinn) is faced with having to spend the evening alone due to her father and others going to a wake. The arrival of the stranger Christy Mahon (Dylan Kennedy), who claims to have killed his father, solves the problem. He will keep her company in the role of potboy.

Christy’s wild poetic stories impress everybody and he is quickly dubbed the Playboy of the Western World, and at least two women talk of him as a marriage prospect. However, things become more complicated when Christy’s father Old Mahon (Bernard O'Sullivan) arrives on the scene.

The acting is confident and fast. The rhythms and rhyme of what they say is delivered in what feels like the West of Ireland vernacular.

There is much humour in the show from Pegeen’s boyfriend Shawn Keogh (Paul Connaughton) trying to get out of staying the night with Pegeen by reference to a local priest to the more farcical elements, such as Christy hiding from his Dad behind a door and a scene in which two women argue over who gets Christy.

The company is also alert to the more serious elements of the play such as the moment when the community switches from adoring Christie to becoming a dangerous lynch mob that threatens his life.

This is a generally rich traditional production of Playboy but it does take at least one unusual step in casting the young Clare Langford as the Widow Quinn who is normally played by an older woman. It is a decision that works, making her romantic overtures to Christy seem more convincing.

This is a very enjoyable performance and a great contribution to the London Irish Rep’s season of Irish plays.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna