Rhyming and rollicking, Joycean and juicy, O’Rowe’s text for the Abbey Theatre makes enormous demands on three actors – a different three from the Edinburgh Festival cast at the Traverse in 2008 – whose fate is settled by an escapade on a building site crane, a mad chase across the city in a runaway lorry, a chance encounter, and a gang of lesbians on a train journey from Pearse Station.
However dense the experience, or static O’Rowe’s own production, which is played in the small Maria auditorium behind a huge silver picture frame, designed by John Bausor, with jutting shards of broken glass, the actors are superb, faultless, syllable-perfect.
The experience is like watching a well-oiled machine click into gear and start functioning of its own accord. Character A (long-haired, witch-like Olwen Fouere, a Samaritans volunteer) is on a mission to rescue a pregnant, former pupil, who, she thinks, is being compelled to have a brutal abortion.
Her estranged daughter, B (red-haired, lissom, emotionally wrought Catherine Walker) is engaged on a bizarre night out that goes horribly wrong at the top of the crane. And C (callous desperado Declan Conlon) sells his soul to the devil for a good singing voice, swaggering and murdering as he goes.
The air is thick with angels, the earth crawls with worms. There’s a fateful road crash, a hint of salvation, and an epiphanous finale on the crane as the soul is dragged from the body, hanging by its entrails, and a crowd gathers below for a bizarre rendition of Bette Midler’s "Wind Beneath My Wings".
It’s certainly different, despite sounding at times like a crazed pastiche of O’Rowe’s fellow Irish monologue merchants, Brian Friel and Enda Walsh. But this is dark, sinister stuff, and as throbbingly well performed as was Walsh’s Penelope recently at the Hampstead Theatre.