Writer and Director: Mark O’Rowe
Starring: Ian Lloyd Anderson, Sinéad Cusack, Ciarán Hinds, Charlie Murphy and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
Mark O’Rowe returns to the stage for the first time since 2007’s Transmission with a deeply chilling play about the modern Irish family and the lengths people will go to for those they love. Performed at the Abbey Theatre’s main stage, this sell out performance with an all-star cast marks an interesting turn towards the more radical with this curious investigation of grief, love and family ties.
The staging is the first indication that something different, something unusual is about to unfold. The first six or so rows of seats have been removed in order to extend the set outwards, right into the audience. Designed by Paul Wills, the stage portrays a recognisable domesticity. A middle class home, its living room and kitchen/diner comes right into the stalls, bringing the audience into the heart of the lives and household of Michael and Margaret.
Played by Hinds and Cusack they are flawless as a married couple; loving, passionate, and yet deeply sad. Hiding their grief beneath the skin of routine, half-truths and lies nearly forgotten. They give deeply powerful and unforgettable performances; to the extent that one can never imagine anyone else playing these characters. Hinds is exceptional as the husband and father defeated in trying to protect those he loves.
When their daughter Adele (Murphy) brings her boyfriend Dennis (Vaughan–Lawlor) home for the first time, his interest and questioning set in motion a chain of events and discoveries that undermine the ordinariness portrayed. By scratching the surface of a secret held right at the centre of what should be a very typical family, leading towards an unexpected conclusion.
O’Rowe’s dialogue has the characters constantly cutting over and interrupting each other. They query the assumptions made in general conversation to find humour in the very Irish vernacular. Despite, or perhaps because of, the dark subject matter the play is funny. O’Rowe’s decision to direct the play himself pays off. The use of dramatic lightening halts scenes abruptly, mirroring the stops and starts in the conversation to comic effect. The comedy begins to fall into tragedy as the love and shared history that binds the family together also threatens to break them apart.
Our Few and Evil Days looks underneath the rituals and assumptions that grow up around families and couples; finding something dangerous, almost sinister. An exciting new play, Our Few and Evil Days pushes the ideas of devotion, adoration and obligation within a family to their furthest limits. The unsettling conclusion finally brings meaning to the Biblically inspired title. This is one of the few times a theatre experience will be totally new and unique; with an ending that will leave any audience moved by what they have seen.
[Image: Abbey Theatre]