Death of a Tradesman at the Cube

October 28, 2013


The conversation started by Shaun Dunne and Talking Shop Ensemble last year, about the effect the recession is having on the everyday people of Ireland, is continued in Death of the Tradesman. This time the focus is on the families left behind, specifically the parents, whose empty nests and empty wallets are filled with regret and resentment. Showing us the pride that comes before the fall, Dunne pecks away at the marital unit with extraordinary frankness, yet extraordinary compassion, holding both parents accountable for their actions and behaviour but also laying bare the mental wear and tear that came with losing their position.

Inspired by a letter sent to his father by the social welfare and influenced by Arthur Miller’s homage to the American Dream, it’s built around a crushing refrain – “You’d want to go down to the labour”. Speaking directly to the audience as the titular tradesman and conversing with an excellent Lauren Larkin’s soured wife Linda, Dunne peals poetry and profanity from the Dublin vernacular and has a subtle but wrenching touch when it comes to character. The stinging undercurrent to tender moments. The sanctification of Bill Cullen in Linda’s eyes. The fine differentiation between a couple of beers and a couple more. He finds the motivation behind an action and reels it out slowly, inconspicuously so that an actor of intelligence, which Dunne has and Larkin radiates, will pick up on it and use it to make the characters live.

It’s too long. And there was a problem with the pace, with the characters speaking too fast for us to fully appreciate the depth Dunne has provided them with. There was also something lost in having actors of such youth playing the middle aged characters. While Dunne possesses an endearing sincerity and Larkin has a presence and honesty few young actresses can match, this script doesn’t just speak to that age group. They are brilliant portrayals of another generation and deserve the emotional and professional maturity an actor from it could bring.

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