The Playboy Of The Western World

Written by J. M. Synge, directed by Garry Hynes
The Druid Company
Liverpool Playhouse (9th-13th June 2009)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This chaotic comedy, set in Ireland in the early part of the 20th century, is funny throughout, but was spoilt by the use of heavy Irish accents by all of the cast, which made it difficult at times to actually understand what they were uttering to each other. Nevertheless it was a delight to watch, even though all of the play was confined to a rural tavern.

The tavern was run by Pegeen Mike (Clare Dunne), and Dunne gave a virtuoso performance even though she has just completed three years training at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. It is she who gives shelter to Christy Mahon (Aaron Monaghan), who is on the run from the ‘Peelers’ (police), having apparently killed his father.

His presence - though I failed to see why - causes a wave of hysteria from young women in particular in the squalid little village. They look upon him as some might admire a celebrity of today. There were complaints from audiences about the fêting of a murderer when the play first appeared in Ireland.

It is a very energetic performance by Monaghan - leaping here, leaping there, for example - which moves through many and varied moods - romantic, despairing, ecstatic - but he feels a sense of disbelief when his dad 'Old Mahon' (Andrew Bennett), turns up in the tavern all in one piece except for a bloodied head.

The idolatory of the women, notably Pegeen - who had even spoken to Christy about getting wed - plunges instantly when they hear the news. Ah, the fickleness of human nature and love.

The drabness of those times in poverty-stricken Irish villages is conveyed realistically in the stage design, with its sawdust covered floor, grey walls and rickety furniture.

Men could turn to escaping difficult times by getting obliterated with cheap alcohol, while the women could only dream of escape from the meaninglesss of life around them - nothing else.

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