Friday, May 19, 2000

REVIEW: On Raftery's Hill (Peacock, Dublin)

Is this the 21st century’s theatrical dream team? Druid director and Tony-winner Garry Hynes directs the latest from By The Bog of Cats author, Marina Carr. Together create a nasty kind of magic, telling a mythic tale of incest and cruelty.

Is it possible that Galway's Druid theatre could repeat the success they enjoyed with Martin McDonagh's The Leenane Trilogy? It's a question that hangs in the air as the company opens Marina Carr's On Raftery's Hill, a production destined geared up for a globe-trotting stint.

Some of the key factors in McDonagh's success are back in place. Garry Hynes (who became the first woman to win a Tony for direction for her work on McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane) directs again and London's Royal Court Theatre once more co-produces. But these off-stage arrangements are not the only things that the new production shares with its much-lauded predecessor.

The action of Raftery's Hill unfolds, as it might in one of McDonagh's plays, in a rural Irish cottage. As with McDonagh's dramas, the set-up requires a mental double-take. Is this drab radio-and-TV-less cottage situated the 1930s? Or the 1970s? Has Tom Hickey's Red Raftery entered the 21st century in the coat his father wore in the early year's of last century? Does the present really resemble the past so closely?

Carr's interests, despite the unrepentantly grim set, clearly do not lie in realism. Instead, the writer creates a world in which urban and Greek myths collide and the most sociopathically dysfunctional of all families comes under the microscope. The result is, naturally enough, a bleak, and at times horrific drama, elevated by Carr's broiling dialogue to a kind of shimmering evening of nastiness. Whether shimmering nastiness will be in fashion on Broadway this century remains to be seen.

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