The Abbey Theatre can be a magical place. Ireland’s national theatre has been my theatre of choice this year. In part because of its close proximity to my house. In part because of its ingenious scheme of offering free of charge first preview performances, many of which I have availed myself. In part because I feel like it belongs to the people of Dublin – being state funded. As a result I see almost everything that is staged at this playhouse. Last night I went to see ‘Drama at Inish’ – the tenth show I have seen on the main stage this year (along with a further six productions on the smaller Peacock Stage’.)
‘Drama at Inish’ is a farce written by Cork playwright Lennox Robinson that was first performed at the Abbey in 1933. It is set at a rural seaside hotel in county Cork during one of the wettest summers on record. This hosteltry plays host to a theatrical repertory company led by the De la Mares – a husband and wife team of actors, who have been hired to take over the local Pavilion theatre for the summer. They plan to put on intellectual plays by Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg to improve the minds of the townspeople.
Their shows are a success but have a strange affect on the locality. Crime and passion start becoming rampant among the normally sedentary residents – all seem connected to the theatre.
The play is enormous fun. As is expected during the Christmas season where edification is exchanged for crowd-pleasers. The comic shenanigans of the characters of this play are highly enjoyable. Hector De la Mare (Nick Dunning) and his wife Constance Constantia (played to perfection by Marion O’Dwyer) are enormous luvvies – meanwhile Constance is also a drinky old lush. Hotel manager Lizzie (Aoibhinn McGinnity) is still pining over her unrequited love for local TD Peter Hurley (Marcus Lamb). Hoteliers John and Annie Twohig (Mark O’Regan and Helen Norton) worry about their son Eddie (Tommy Harris) who yearns for accountant Christine (Breffni Holohan).
The play is broad comedy – anything that can go wrong will go wrong to great effect. The comic timing of the ensemble cast is remarkable. The set is as you imagine a 1930s rural hotel would look; and the large window looking out ot sea is used to great effect to announce the comings and goings of the characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed this play. Sometimes it’s lovely to go to a play for the sheer entertainment of seeing a comedy, the purpose of which is only to make the audience laugh, and not to educate. There is truth in the adage that comedy is the most difficult genre of the performing arts.
There’s no deep meaningful layers to this play. It’s a laugh out loud comedy. And it is quite wonderful.
Directed by Cal McCrystal, ‘Drama at Inish’ will be playing for the next ten weeks on the main stage in the Abbey Theatre until January 24th. It’s well worth seeing. Highly recommended.