Theatrical: ‘The Beacon’


Another evening, another play. This time the Gate Theatre (notorious for its uncomfortable seating) to see ‘The Beacon’ by Nancy Harris. My ticket was not free – I paid for the honour of a front row seat – the cheapest row in the house. I can’t understand why this is. I always make a beeline for the front row. I like to be close enough to the stage to see the spittle from the actors’ mouths.

This is a co-production between the Druid Theatre in Galway and the Gate Theatre in Dublin and is directed by Garry Hynes.

Set on the county Cork island home of renowned Dublin artist Beiv (Jane Brennan) who is visited from San Francisco by her thirty-something son Colm (Marty Rea) and his younger wife Bonnie (Rae Gray) who are honeymooning on the island, old wounds and dark secrets are uncovered. Scabs which should be left to fester are picked at.

The island is the birthplace of Colm’s Dad, who remained friends with Beiv after their marriage broke down. Having drowned in mysterious circumstances he willed the island cottage to her, and she has chosen to move there fulltime – previously it had been the holiday home where the family would visit each summer. She has hired Colm’s childhood friend Donal (Ian-Lloyd Anderson) to renovate the cottage.

A drunken dinner party is the catalyst for old wounds and mysteries to be revisited. What are the secrets that are being hidden.

The play is suspenseful and engaging, often with the unspoken word telling its own tale. Rae Gray as Bonnie is a very likeable character swimming in the shark infested waters of untold family secrets. Henderson plays local boy Donal very convincingly with the audience rooting for his character.

The problem I had with the play was how unpleasant the characters of Colm and Beiv were. Colm is angry and accusing when there is no need to be. Beiv is cold and rigid for no narrative reason. As central characters they are not convincing. I don’t see why Bonnie would care for her cold fish husband. Why Colm would subject himself to his mother’s company for his honeymoon when he’s lived away for so long is confusing. Luckily we have Donal and Bonnie to balance this out

The set is beautiful with the sea view backdrop altering colour to tell us the time of day.

It’s a decent play, that’s well performed and with a strong script. I enjoyed it but left with a niggling feeling of something missing – the spark that glues it all together. A bit more nuance to the characters of Colm and Beiv was my conclusion. Some human warmth to make us care for them perhaps?

My next comment is petty in the extreme but attention to detail is important. When Colm gives Donal money to get a 6-pack and two bottles of Shiraz at the offie, he needs to hand him a 50 euro note and not a 20. Dublin is overpriced but even on a remote Cork island, 20 euros sadly has limitations. I was in the front row, pursing my lips in judgemental disapproval at the props department when I noticed.

‘The Beacon’ runs at the Gate until October 26th and it’s worth checking ou.



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