(MIchael Billington's article appeared in the Guardian, 12/14.)

Although Conor McPherson's play was chosen to reopen the Royal Court back in 2000, it never achieved the acclaim of its immediate forebear, The Weir. Watching Abbey Wright's revival for the Donmar's West End season, it is not hard to see why: McPherson provides a vivid portrait of the private hell of alcoholic degradation without ever quite giving you the sense, as he did in the earlier play, that he is offering an anatomy of Ireland itself.

McPherson's hero, John Plunkett, is a middle-aged Dublin mortician who, on a bleak Christmas Eve, finds himself plagued by the unshakeable ghost of his past. In the first and third scenes, he recalls, for the benefit of his young assistant, the depths to which he sank as a heavy drinker and his terror of unconditional love. In the central scene, he confronts his estranged daughter, Mary, who evokes memories of his failure as a father while begging him to come to the bedside of his dying wife.


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