Our Few and Evil Days by Mark O'Rowe

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Adele and her parents have always been close. But recently, that closeness has been tainted by an increasing sense of mistrust. Tonight, a visit from a stranger will force them to confront the terrifying reality of their relationship.

Irish Theatre Magazine, October 6, 2014, by Emilie Pine

It sounds unlikely; more than unlikely, downright unbelievable. Margaret says it's 'crazy'. Three men are invited into a family home, two are thrown out, one remains. All of the men are looking for love, and look to the women of the house to grant it to them, beginning with a request and ending with violence.

Mark O'Rowe's new play Our Few and Evil Days weaves a complicated structure, patterned by recurring themes of love and loss, hope and its unsettling impossibility, and the rising of a great darkness. Though the play's framework is realist, from Paul Wills' painstakingly detailed set to the true-to-life dialogue, its plot is frequently fantastical. The play is unsettling, in its shift from normality to weirdness, and from comfortable laughter to disbelieving silence. In these shifts, the audience is provoked to wonder how to read the situation - is this middle-class social comedy or something much darker? Audiences might expect the latter given O'Rowe's track record of plays which exploit and explore the criminal and merciless side of human nature through grotesque humour and confrontation; the combination of those characteristics, however, with the framework of realistically-realised suburban family life in Our Few and Evil Days, is entirely unexpected.

The recurrent tropes are easy to spot - men with mother issues, men who do violence (emotional or physical) to women in the name of love, women who put up with the violence in the name of love. As with his earlier work O'Rowe uses Our Few and Evil Days as a vehicle for exploring the question, 'What is the worst thing you can imagine happening?' The answer is, 'It's pretty f***ing bad'. Directing his own work again, O'Rowe shifts the pace from fast and overlapping dialogue to slow and quiet moments of confession. The dialogue rings so true - often painfully so - that it lends a precision to every moment. Much of the power of the play, and the audience's ability to invest in the characters despite their dreadful actions, is created by the towering performances of Sinéad Cusack as Margaret and Ciarán Hinds as Michael. Cusack's understated embodiment of Margaret, who is both invested in and distant from the life going on around her, and Hinds' gruff persona as a decent violent man, do much to anchor the play and give the twists and turns of the plot some gravitas. As their daughter, Charlie Murphy is suitably highly strung, as the only character in the play who is honest, a quality that comes across as both a form of vulnerability and a defence mechanism. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Ian-Lloyd Anderson are convincing as Dennis and Gary, lovers-turned-strangers, though neither character is fully developed.

The set design by Paul Wills, in its heightened simulacra, is the perfect foil to the unlikely story played out within it, while Paul Keogan's lighting design precisely evokes, particularly in its evening glow, a well-heeled family home. Only in the sound design, with music by Philip Stewart and Seán Mac Erlaine, is there a hint of the uncanny, as the scene transitions are accompanied by a scratching and rustling, something shifting unhappily behind the happy façade. That something emerges at the end, exposing the lie that family homes, or indeed theatres, are always safe spaces.

Directed by Mark O'Rowe

CHARACTER ACTOR CHARACTER ACTOR
Gary Ian Lloyd Anderson Margaret Sináad Cusack
Michael Ciarán Hinds Adele Charlie Murphy
Dennis Tom Vaughan Lawlor    

Company/theatre: Abbey Theatre
Run: 2014-09-26 to 2014-10-25


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Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.(Khalil Gibran)

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