(Bruce Arnold's review appeared in the Irish Independent, October 9, 2009.)

Review: Tales of Ballycumber, Abbey Theatre

SEBASTIAN Barry's new play is a lyrical work of great and compelling beauty.

It concerns a friendship between two men. The older, Nicholas Farquhar, played by Stephen Rea in a measured and authoritative way, has a subtle but overwhelming impact on the younger man, Evans, played with guileless directness by Aaron Monaghan. He has come to help get jackdaws out of a chimney.

They are Protestants living in rural Wicklow. Evans loves a Catholic girl, Patsy Byrne, confessing this and thereby eliciting from Nicholas the alarming observation: "You couldn't be trusting a girl like that to be looking after you." The bigotry is extended in a remarkable anti-Catholic diatribe made credible only by Rea's sincerity.

Evans, of normal, bright intelligence otherwise, replies: "You think so?" Then goes on to raise again her "greeny-blue eyes" expressing bewilderment as to how it is possible to tell Catholics by sight. Farquhar says it surely is. They talk of lambs and Pomeranian dogs and other things before parting.

The next morning Evans' father, Andrew, played very movingly by Liam Carney, visits Nicholas with the startling information that Evans shot himself in the stomach the previous evening. He shows Nicholas a suicide note that says "Nicholas Farquhar knows".


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