Christ Deliver Us!

March 20, 2010

Christ Deliver Us from the evils of sanctimonious theatre. I know it’s a bit of an obvious pun using the plays title to describe my feelings towards the Abbey’s latest production but since Thomas Kilroy has made no attempt to go beyond the blatantly obvious in his ham-fisted stab at exploring clerical abuses and the parochial mindset of 50s Ireland I thought I’d be as lazy and pedantic as he.

The nations catholic psyche is given a literary flagging in this dull, uninvolving and self-important work which may seem daring but it is really just a belated and unnecessary volley at the same targets already dissected by the far more insightful Song for A Raggy Boy, The Magdalene Laundries, Dear Daughter and The God Squad. The set by is vast yet simple, a white wall with a small yet ever-present crucifix baring down on us. The power and influence of the clergy is every where-from the kind but clueless widow( an oddly disconnected Eleanor Methven) who sends her daughter Winnie( the impressive Aoife Duffin) to the parish priest following her first period; to the tragic from the get go Mossy Lannegan, played far to simplistically and cluelessly by Laurence Kinlan. If you are a sad sack from the very beginning the tragic end you are dealt makes little impact on an audience who just might think you are better of that way. He is so wracked with fear and guilt after cheating in his mocks, he goes to confession and sets into action a chain of events that infects the whole town.

The largely young cast struggle valiantly against getting stuck in the puss of caricature and Wayne Jordan keeps the pace going with some visually alluring set pieces but the show lacks any emotional centre. The failures,abuses and corroded innocence of the characters are so simply dealt with, so black and white. And when tragedy strikes we are given no time to digest it. It’s just on to the next sub plot; and then the next and so on and so on until a seemingly never-ending parade of familiar theatrical faces(Cathy Belton, her high heels, Denis Conway and a barely audible Tom Hickey) are paraded past adding nothing to the story, but plenty to the budget.

We lumber from beatings to berating, rapes to circle jerks, suicides and still births with the ultimate effect that we fail to identify with any of the characters on stage as being real, more a vessel for an over stretched playwright to pontificate about the horrors of our once, but long since hidden, heritage.

Late, as always, to the table of social relevance this piece calls seriously into question Irish theatres ability to reflect back to an audience societies ills or handle the issues of the day in any kind of original or intuitive manner. It’s a litany of our inherited ills rather than an exploration of them.This is a serious topic in need of serious theatrical debate. But to applaud the first thing cross the finnish line no matter what the result is a worrying sign that our national theatre want to be seen to be handling the issues of the day, not exploring them


One Response to “Christ Deliver Us!”

  1. […] our national theatre down some pretty lame alleys this year. From Thomas Kilroy’s plodding Christ Deliver Us, where a litany of sins were exploited rather than explained to the Porter’s speech in Macbeth, […]

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