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The Theatreguide.London Review

Bush Theatre      Spring 2006

An ancient one-legged Irishman and his 100-year-old one-armed son embark on a quest to find the latter's never-seen 70-year-old son, the product of a one-night liaison with a woman whose name may or may not have been Mary.

Clearly we are in the realm of myth and legend in Mark Doherty's new play, here in a production from the Galway Arts Festival.

And myth and legend turn out to be what the play is about, as father whiles away the journey (which actually gets them no further than the nearest village) with his repertoire of family tall tales - of the grandmother who was a berry-picking champion, of the Great Olive Crisis, of the oxygen ban of 1916 - and as the village priest they consult trumps them all with the hilariously over-the-top epic of a local hero.

And the limits of myth and legend are also discovered, as they realize how little use they are in investigating the facts of the past, much less their relevance to the future.

There's just a faint whiff of Chekhov in that farewell-to-the-beautiful-past theme, and a great deal more of Beckett. The two grotesquely old men in their ill-fitting clothes could have come out of any of a number of Beckett's works, as could exchanges like 'How's the leg?' - 'Which one?' - 'The good one'. - 'Bad'.

Or, on a darker note, 'Do we have a plan?' - 'What are you like with your questions! My plan is to draw in air at the end of this sentence, and if I'm successful I'll release it after.'

I hasten to say that, for all the echoes of Beckett and hints of Chekhov (and why not be influenced by the best?), Doherty has very much his own voice, rich both in humour and in evocative stage imagery, making the ninety minutes of the play a delightful journey in surrealism.

Mikel Murfi directs with a sure hand, and performances by Frankie McCafferty as father, Peter Gowen as son and David Pearse as both the priest and one of his parishioners are impeccable.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Trad - Bush  Theatre 2006


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