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The Theatreguide.London Review

A Whistle in the Dark
Tricycle Theatre      Spring 2006

There's a great deal of passion onstage in Tom Murphy's 1961 play, a great deal of pain, and anger, and theatrical energy. And it all goes a long way to disguising the fact that the play is, at its core, a very old-fashioned and conventional domestic melodrama.

An Irishman living in Coventry and trying to better himself is the unhappy host to his father and brothers. Unlike him, they all sense that they are losers, and have no ambitions higher than petty crime and the reputation for being the toughest clan in the neighbourhood.

The plot consists essentially of the host's attempts to keep his youngest brother from following the others and getting involved in a street brawl with a competing family of hardmen, and of the confrontations and conflicts that follow his failure.

Very little happens that you could not predict long in advance, and very little is said that strays very far from the cliched speechifying of nineteenth-century melodrama. But the passions are real, and director Jacob Murray and his cast make it all matter while we're watching it.

Patrick O'Kane is moving as the man torn between loyalty to his family, his own peaceful nature and love for his wife, who is doubly an outsider by being English and a woman.

Esther Hall makes us believe that a woman of her time and place would put up with as much abuse from the brothers as she does before finally taking a forceful stand.

As the smartest of the wild brothers, Damian O'Hare captures the not-unsympathetic image of a man whose sense of failure and self-contempt have been deflected outward into free-swinging anger, while Gary Whelan is in turn powerful and pathetic as the vicious bully of a father who cannot hide his core of cowardice.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of A Whistle In The Dark - Tricycle  Theatre 2006


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