IDGTF: The Astonished Heart – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015


Writer: Noel Coward

Director: Geoff O’Keeffe

The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward is a short performance running at just over an hour and playing to a packed audience as a part of Dublin’s International Gay Theatre Festival.

The audience are taken into the lives of Barbara (Michelle Reade) and Christian (Colin Walsh), a loving but not entirely happy couple in their mid – 30s. When an old school friend returns it challenges the dynamic. Barbara and Leon (Steven Masterson) instantly resume the closeness and humour that they had shared as children. Despite this, the connection between Christian and Leon is obvious from the moment they meet and Coward leaves the audience unsure of what path this relationship will take. Christian falls passionately in love with Leon but all involved are unprepared for the effect that this will have. A love triangle ensues with each character searching for love and acceptance, of themselves and within others.

The staging is minimal but effective. A bed, covered in bright red covers, takes centre stage, moving dependent on which couple are occupying the focus at that time. A blue heart, in two pieces, hangs above it and a drinks table and chair sits in the corner throughout. The sparse staging is effective and allows the story to unfold unhindered by an overly complicated set design.

One of the highlights of The Astonished Heart is the language which delves into the nature of love, relationships and acceptance without ever lecturing the audience, keeping their attention throughout. The trio of actors, from Behind the Moon Productions, work very well together to give meaning to Coward’s dialogue. Most performances at this year’s International Dublin Theatre Festival will be seen in light of the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage. This play does not sensationalise or try overly hard to make a point, instead it is so well acted and directed that questions of gender are never raised, it is simply a story of love.

The Astonished Heart is an intense piece of theatre that both entertains and leaves the audience contemplating its themes and ideas long after curtain call.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 3.5*