May 23 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, September 29, 2011
When The Playboy of the Western World premiered in Dublin in 1907, it led to protests inside and outside the theatre.
The Old Vic, which is currently showing a production of the play, has no need to worry - the audience may have been noisy at the end of the show, but it was only because the applause was so loud.
J M Synge’s play centres on Christy Mahon, who drifts into a village on the coast of County Mayo on a dark autumn evening.
He brings with him a story of killing his own father, a story that gets more and more exaggerated with every retelling, and which you are never sure is completely true.
Christy is played confidently by Robert Sheehan, in his professional stage debut. He is perhaps most famous for his role as the hyperactive Nathan in television’s Misfits, where the character’s blunt nature and his role as the comic relief charms viewers, even as they are shocked by the words coming out of his mouth.
Sheehan uses a similar charm to play Christy, but the role gives him a chance to flex his acting muscles, as Christy goes from nervous wanderer to favourite villager, while falling in love with the play’s protagonist Pegeen Mike, played by fellow Misfits alumnus Ruth Negga.
The Playboy of the Western World is, among other things, a play about the power of words, and so it’s unsurprising the play is a wordy one.
The language ebbs and flows, and requires concentration from the audience as well as rhythm from the cast. Sheehan and Negga succeed at times, particularly during an emotional scene with just the two of them on stage towards the end, but overall there’s a slight stutter to the proceedings.
The person who captures the language best is Niamh Cusack as Widow Quin. The character’s brashness and sometimes crude phrasing hides a kindness and a grief caused by the loss of her children.
The Playboy of the Western World features a raft of complicated characters, made more complicated by Synge’s writing style.
But an audience willing to overlook some slight rhythmic flaws will find themselves watching a rich play, and there will be no need for any protests.