Penelope Review

September 27, 2010


Four flawless performances and some phenomenal writing add up to a fantastic nights theatre for those willing to trek out to the Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire. If you are suffering from Fringe fatigue it is the perfect tonic to the cheap and cheerful fair all over the rest of the city.

Four men wallow their life away in a dingy, blood splattered swimming pool, the last remaining suitors of the unwooable Penelope. As she scorns their advances and awaits the return of her husband, the hero Odysseus, they make daily attempts to win her hand through protestations delivered out to the audience as soliloquies and to Penelope herself through  CCTV. But time is running out. They have all had the same prophetic dream whereby Odysseus returns and slaughters them all, one by one. They know that today is the day they meet their maker and that their one hope of salvation is to insure that at least one of them wins her hand and spares their heads. Four men who have spent the best part of a decade  fighting for the same prize must now work in unison to save each others lives.

It’s a glorious exposition of the true nature of man- the virility, voraciousness, self-centeredness and the capacity for good. There’s also the vanities, fantasies and coveting that has lead them to death’s door via the trap door of lust and accession. The players evoke the many aspects of their sex with their pitch perfect portrayals, serviced by Walsh’s layered script.

As always it is a paean to prose, with language that shifts from being crude to comely with just the flicker of the tongue. He invests these despicable cads with a warmth and a joviality that makes the inevitability of their faith all the more touching. Through Karl Shiels as a speedo sporting, chest beating misogynist to Tadgh Murphy as a frayed, morose alcoholic, Dennis Conway’s portly paramour and Niall Buggy’s learned pill popper, we are given constant mediation’s on the body as a temple, the body in decay and the parting of ways between body and brain.

But aside from all this cogitation it is also a side splitting comedy, with some absolutely blinding dialogue, devastating put downs and spot on social commentary all delivered with finely tuned bombast that never grates. There’s a magnificent set(Sabine Dargent), score(Gregory Clarke) and lighting (Paul Keogan) while the whole thing has been cohesively brought together by Mikel Murfi.


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