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The Kingdom

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Colin Teevan's new play is a rum do, a static and incantatory piece for three actors about Irish navvies, digging up roads and uncovering an Oedipal tragedy of incest, murder, blindness and redemption.

Something happened at the crossroads near Threemiletown involving Boss Carbery and a gang of thieves, a tinker's curse and a fella called Horse. And it came out of the wandering life of an old labourer, the mythical toil of the lost sons of Kerry and Donegal who have worked on the roads and the rails, the tunnels and pipes.

The evocation of a way of life, a community on the road, a quest for home, all that is very well done in Teevan's sharp and often brutish writing, but the drama has trouble wrestling itself free of the terse, third person verbiage. And the still presence of the disembodied actors doesn't help.

Against a pile of stones and grey rubble (design by Jessica Curtis), they stand immovable in their dirty clothes, picks at the ready for anything: Anthony Delaney as the Young Man, Owen O'Neill the Man himself and Gary Lilburn as the Old Man, blind and troubled. Their identity shifts among them, so they are now the one person in a different life, now the same at different stages of it, both symbolic and representative.

Lucy Pitman-Wallace's production bravely meets this material - at once shifting and immutable - head on, but I can't help feeling that the room is the wrong shape for her show; there’s no rake in the third Soho venue at the top of the stairs, and even just a few rows back you feel very cut off.

There's a whole gallery of characters embedded here, not just Horse and Boss Carbery, but Concrete Mick and Elephant Sean, the irregulars “out on the jag” in Soho and along the Kilburn High Road, the tinkers back home and the guardians of the riddle at Our Lady’s Shrine, the supporting cast in acts of love, God and consummation.

The show is too brisk and possibly too elliptical for its own good, failing to release the colour and the life of it all; it's as though Teevan has written a long outline in blank verse and forgotten to flesh out the drama, resulting in an unsatisfactory hybrid of undercooked Beckett and impersonal tragedy.


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