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Haymarket - The Playboy of the Western World

22nd September to 9th October 2004.

From Kick FM.

This is one of the best productions I’ve seen for some time. It’s a mixture of humour, pathos and raw emotion, all delivered in Irish accents so thick you could spread them on toast. There were excellent performances from the cast, especially Seamus John Allen in the title role. Don’t miss this one – get over to Basingstoke before the end of next week.


From Theatreworld Internet Magazine.

Despite the "Playboy riots" of the opening night at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1907, The Playboy of the Western World has, to this day, been at the centre of Irish repertory. And since J M Synge is perhaps the best-known writer of the Irish theatrical movement, Haymarket Theatre's Irish Season kicks off well with this staging by the Big Telly Theatre Company from Portstewart, Northern Ireland.

Set in a remote coastal region of Mayo (Ireland's "Wild West"), at a time when the country was much under the subjection of the Church, .it centres on a village pub with the locals hearing the good news - how, in accordance with a dispensation from Rome, a marriage can now take place between Shawn Keogh and Pegeen Mike, the feisty daughter of the pub manager.

But Pegeen, played by Abigail McGibbon, changes her mind about Shawn when the young vagabond Christy Mahon seeks refuge at the village pub after making what he believed to be a fatal assault on his tyrannical father. The word soon spreads around and Christy, played by Seamus John Allen like a proud hero, earns so much adulation from all and sundry that he begins to wish he had thought of doing the dreadful deed years earlier. He is particularly idolised by Pegeen who wants to marry him but is in competition with other women of the community like the scheming Widow Quin (Lynda Gough).

Also, the two hilariously cross-dressed Jack Walsh and Michael O'Reilly who rush over to have a look at the reputed parricide, and this makes sense when seen as a first-class addition to village gossip and there's a tacit consent to the acceptance of the unlikely story, bringing a backlash when Christy seems to have done it again, and on the doorstep of the pub.

This follows the highly comic situation arising when old Mahon (Eamonn Hunt) suddenly appears at the pub and the villagers are immediately disillusioned, and in particular Pegeen (her final words in the play are: "Sure I've lost him, I've lost my only playboy of the Western World".)

And so this mixed comedy ends as a poetic tragedy in which we're made aware of the contrast between the world of illusion in which lurid tales are told around a turf fire and the world of prosaic realism in which the characters no longer see themselves and others as colourful personalities.

Synge's masterpiece makes a great tale, and the way it's told in this production directed by Zoe Seaton with an all-Irish cast, makes one appreciate the rich use of colloquial West Ireland speech where Synge shows his love of the flow and rhythms of Irish-English speech.

You'll enjoy seeing this lively production which is followed later in Haymarket Theatre's Irish Season by Brian Friel's hilarious farce The Communication Cord (22 October to 6 November).