Milk and Alcohol
Touring companies will tell you that every venue is unique. Some are a little too large, others a little too small. Some have better acoustics, some better lights. Then there's those Goldilocks venues where everything is just right for your show. Such is the case with Conor McPherson’s “This Lime Tree Bower,” produced by Eoin Kilkenny, and its current home, the Viking Theatre. McPherson's 1995 tale of three lads trying to make sense of the life as lived, and the virtues they believe in, is still as potent today. As three men talk, copious amounts of alcohol dilute the milk of human kindness, and over a life changing weekend the end of innocence might well occur in this beautifully rendered production.
A tale of a heist, a teenager, a misogynistic lecturer and a faithful son, “This Lime Tree Bower’s” strength lies in McPherson’s use of language, his meticulous attention to detail, wonderfully rendered everyday observations, and three mesmerising characters. If narratively “This Lime Tree Bower” doesn't really have an awful lot going on at the end of the day, that’s more than compensated for by a delicious sense of pathos and a wonderful vein of humour. Through three interwoven monologues, MacPherson asks what happens when doing what's right isn't as important as doing what is needed, whether that's stealing what you need to keep your head above water, or walking away from someone you maybe should've helped. If the ending is a little frayed around the edges, the journey to it is a voyage well taken, made more so by three taut performances that never slacken, not even for a moment.
Eoghan Carrick directs with such subtle assurance “The Lime Tree Bower” feels imbued with an overwhelming sense of immediacy, with his remarkable cast appearing to excavate memories in real time right before your eyes. Peter Daly as Ray, a serial cynic, serial adulterer, and serial puker, is wonderful as the acerbic, soul weary lecturer screwing his students, as well as his own life up, struggling with any streak of decency he just might have remaining. David Fennelly as the serial idoliser Joe, idolising his friend Damien, his deeply desired girl Debbie, and his brother Frank, is astoundingly good as a soul searchingly honest teenager trying to equate what he feels with what he sees all around him. Stephen Jones, as big brother Frank, delivers another masterclass performance as the good guy doing a bad thing for the right reasons knowing it’s wrong. Individually exceptional, all three fill the spaces between monologues with an array of perfectly pitched details, exemplifying a focused ensemble performing at the top of their game.
“This Lime Tree Bower” has all the body of a delicious second whiskey; comfortable, warm, infused with intimacy and ease, and a desire to partake in some convivial conversation. The story may ultimately go nowhere too exciting in the end, but maybe it has nowhere it really needs to get to. The details, and the telling, are where the real truths lie. With maybe just a drop of milk or two. So, come on in, pull up a stool, pour yourself a whiskey, and enjoy the conversation. You won't regret it.
“This Lime Tree Bower” by Conor McPherson runs at The Viking Theatre until June 17th
For more information visit The Viking Theatre, or This Lime Tree Bower.