(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 6/15.)
“Is Tommy gone too,” Christy asks early in Tom Murphy’s brilliant anatomy of exile. “There’ll soon be no one left.” Like so much else in this careful, clear-sighted play from 2000, the exchange is full of the pleasantries of Irish emigrants returning for the summer holidays (“As usual!”) but mingled with solemn reports of the recently deceased. The unseen Tommy has only emigrated, but to those returning to the thinning smiles and folded arms of 1950s Galway, it can be hard to tell the difference.
Without forcing the point or labouring the play’s keen relevance, director Annabelle Comyn’s perceptive and beautifully-pitched revival for the Abbey delivers competing visions of Ireland – its sentimentalised memory and its riven reality. The plot is thick with a drama of dispossession, longing and sexual tension, but it’s the friction between those visions that gives the production its nervy hum.