The Playboy of the Western World at the Corrib Rest
The upstairs floor of an Irish pub is where Gavin McAlinden’s adaptation of JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World is set. There is no stage, and the design is reduced to a minimum. Traditional Ceilidh music fills the room before the play starts and for a moment it feels like being in the Emerald Isle for real. The live band amuses spectators during the intervals of this classic three-act piece.
The scene opens in Michael James Flaherty’s public house, where his daughter Margaret “Pegeen” serves as a barmaid, as a stranger – Christy Mahon – arrives in their small town looking for some respite after wandering for 11 days following the murder of his father. The main theme of the play, which led to turmoil when it was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1907 causing the Playboy Riots, is still fashionable and even more so, in a modern way of course, after the advent of mass-media and the globalisation process taking over.
Instead of being condemned, the stranger’s deed is praised by the villagers because it makes him look like an audacious man. The way Mahon tells his story also arouses curiosity, gains him more and more respect, comradeship and admiration – particularly from the local gals. Most importantly, Mahon’s attitude conquers the love of Pegeen (and the contempt of Shawn, her fiancé).
The story evolves quickly in spite of the length of the show. Dramatic turns of events call into question all that has been taken for granted until then, but more than the story itself it’s interesting to see how things haven’t changed at all over the course of a century. Famously, old habits die hard and gossip is one of them. The consequences are always bad and that is probably the moral of the play.
McAlinden’s Acting Gymnasium may be an unpretentious production in terms of staging but it still scores some points. If anything, Adam Henderson-Scott as Mahon is superb. His acting skills are impressive, as he’s able to portray flawlessly and naturally a variety of emotions. Kathryn McCartin is also worthy of a mention. Minor characters deserve their minority as they mostly seem rather goofy. Some more rehearsal time wouldn’t go amiss, but the play is fairly enjoyable nonetheless.
The Playboy of the Western World is at the Corrib Rest until 19th January 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.