Brian Friel’s bitter-sweet slice of Irish nostalgia was premiered 21 years ago and for a while could be seen all over the place rather too frequently but it hasn’t been around here for quite a while now and as the play stands the test of time rather well, this compelling production from Suffolk-based, UK-touring, The Original Theatre Company, is a very welcome revival.
Michael – played with low-key conviction by company founder and director Alastair Whatley – tells of the year of ’36, when he was seven, the love child of Chrissie, one of the five Mundy sisters, living their uneventful lives in a remote Irish village.
Simple fun and simple ways fill the sister’s days but deep humanity is here, life-affirming women playing out their aspirations and frustrations as the outside world is finally catching up with them.
It’s a strong and authentic ensemble cast, led by Siobhan O’Kelly as Michael’s mother, determined to carry on and enjoy life as much as possible and still longingly and foolishly in love with Michael’s attractive but wayward, only occasionally visiting, father (Paul Westwood).
The rest are excellent too, particularly Daragh O’Malley (from TV’s Sharpe) as Father Jack, the ill and confused brother, returned home after years of missionary work in Africa, and Victoria Carling as officious, realistic, Kate.
An atmospheric farmhouse interior, surrounded by rough pasture, and subtle sound and light also underline the quality of the production.