Three mesmerizing actors and Eoghan Carrick’s innovative direction bring this marvelous tale by one of Ireland’s greatest living playwrights to life.
This Lime Tree Bower follows Joe, Frank and Ray as they discuss their (un)eventful lives. The young teenager Joe and his older brother Frank consider their boredom, their family dynamics and their unconventional friendship with their sister Carmel’s sleazy boyfriend, Ray. Despite being written over twenty years ago, the three intertwining monologues remain remarkably relevant, examining the different modes of masculinity in modern-day Ireland with undeniable dexterity and finesse.
The curious title is taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem of the same name, where ‘this lime tree bower’ actually becomes a ‘prison’. McPherson’s play certainly revolves around the inescapable quality many feel about their hometowns, but this production imbues the ‘prison’ with a fond, nostalgic glaze. This possibly stems from Carrick’s clever decision to have the three characters deliver their stories to each other as well as to the audience. As Ray, unabashed, shares the intimate details of his sex life, Joe blushes and Frank takes a knowing sip of whiskey. The company has clearly worked hard to create an interlinking contextual background for the three characters, and it pays off, for these subtle additions of human interaction are a nice touch and generate a watchable dynamic on stage.
David Fennelly provides a very strong opening to the production, playing Joe with a likeable vulnerability. He is able to constantly keep the audience captivated as he cautiously reveals the complex emotional landscape of a teenager. Stephen Jones grows into his role as cheeky chippy worker, Frank. He skillfully sprinkles moments of genuine sadness concerning his absent mother and alcoholic father among hilarious impersonations of the people he interacts with everyday. Peter Daly sparkles on stage, delivering a wholly convincing performance as a horny philosophy professor with a drinking problem. His comic timing is a treat to watch. His throwaway lines, ‘if you stay in a hotel room you have to fuck’, are delivered with effortless wit, and his tale of vomiting mid-lecture is one of the highlights of the short 80 minute running time.
At the heart of this satisfying production is a celebration of storytelling. McPherson relishes tales from the everyday as the mundane and the sublime become interchangeable. Poetic descriptions of nature are immediately undercut with humorous, ordinary observations. And both are equally engaging. The wind howls, turning young Joe’s eyes towards the girl he fancies (who he’s only seen from the side). Ray is interrupted from his existential musings by his need to shit. Bodily functions become just as interesting as emotional responses, proving that, as Coleridge wrote, ‘no sound is dissonant which tells of Life’.