In the wrong hands, this complex and demanding script could become a total muddle. However, in the right hands, it becomes a wonderful pastiche of characters and searching themes. This production shows that it is well and truly in the right hands.
Director Joh Hartog and the actors Scott Nell and Brendan Cooney got it right.
The troubling meaning of the title – the way in which a disillusioned young man suicided by drowning – hits us hard, but by contrast there are many comic moments too. Set in County Kerry, with a backdrop of the Hollywood film industry, in this case one of many such companies exploiting the glorious landscape and cheap extras for their films, this play is both Irish and universal.
Scott Nell and Brendan Cooney were masterful. They brought life and delineation to fifteen characters between them. Almost always they altered character in an instant, and then back again, augmented where necessary by subtle sound and lighting effects.
Their base characters, Jake (Nell) and Charlie (Cooney) were lads-about-the-village and extras in the film or ‘fil-um’, as they authentically had it. Both actors were exceptional in bringing us the instant character changes, using accents, intonation and facial dexterity. Further, they captured those characters’ differences, male and female, by quickly established, recognisable gestures: the toss of a ‘curl’, the reversal of a hat, a slightly altered stance and physical attitude. As a device, it worked effortlessly, having been established in the very first moments of the play. While some of the characters were to a degree stereotypical – the aging extra, the American film star, the two young children chatting on the floor, – Nell and Cooney provided us with occasional exaggeration, while avoiding overdoing it.
There were many memorable scenes. Caroline’s pronunciation lesson, the film’s digging scene, Aisling’s arresting affectedness, and all scenes after the characters found out about Sean’s death, are lodged in my mind. Nell and Cooney managed the comedy and pathos superbly, and held our attention. Once in a while we in the audience were drawn into the action, even to the extent of being yelled at as ‘extras’ in the film. Used sparingly as it was, that added to our willing engagement.
This is a production of high order and one not to be missed. I felt for the cast and crew that there were too few in the audience on the night I saw it. Both this company and The Parks Theatres deserve full houses. Using the M2 it’s only 15 minutes from the centre of Adelaide. Take the trip. It will be well worth your while.