The Good Father
Who’s Your Daddy?
New Years Eve at a Dublin house party. Jane’s drunk and Tim’s steadily getting there. Both have been recently dumped, love walking their dogs on the beach, and have no one to have sex with to help bring in the New Year with a bang, obvious pun intended. Outside of that, they have zero in common. But there’s no need to let that get in the way of a one-night stand. In “The Good Father,” The Stewart Parker Trust Award winning play by Christian O’Reilly, consequences come calling in a tale as old as time. But one given a fresh twist as two thirty somethings fall into responsibility on their way to hopefully falling in love. If it sometimes seems a little overwritten in places, “The Good Father” is ultimately an intimate joy and delight, courtesy of two outstanding performances in this hilariously, heart warming production.
In “The Good Father” opposites attract, and repel, as lovable rogue, Tim, from the wrong part of town, sets about melting the heart of the snooty, ice queen, Jane. She’s a vodka drinking, walking wound, over-sharing her misery and sarcasm by incessantly talking about her ex while perpetually adjusting her hair. He’s a beer swilling Spiderman, a painter and decorator with one bad joke who’s not so good with clever words. Even so, he often talks incessantly so he doesn’t have to share, or in order to try and make everything right. Both are disappointed, and disappointing, children, who suddenly discover they’re about to have a child of their own. But how can you love a child when you don’t even know if you love yourself, or each other? And is a child reason enough for two total strangers to stay together?
If O’Reilly’s smart, ‘well-to-do girl meets working-class boy’ script covers familiar territory travelled a thousand times before, it does so with such irresistible charm it’s practically infectious. Which makes those moments where it feels strained, or forced, a little more obvious. Taking you out of the immediacy of the moment to tell prolonged tales from the past, or travel on a journey to an undescended testicle that takes forever to get there, feels like waking up from a dream you just want to get back to. And often do. Yet an imbalance and sense of unease results at times, making some scenes, and the whole, feel a little too long, and other sections, especially the end, feel a little too hurried. If this impacts on performances a shade in places, it’s only a shade. Throughout, Liam Heslin and Rachel O’Byrne are breathtakingly brilliant, with both being utterly engaging individually, as well as bubbling with irresistible chemistry as the thrown together couple. Director Aonghus Óg McAnally does a sterling job exploring “The Good Father’s” emotionally rich landscape, but Lance Faucett’s sterile set design, resembling an unfinished, half painted wall, brings little to proceedings aside from a clever, multi-functioning box. In contrast, Leanne Bergin’s overly emotive sound design risks bringing too much to proceedings, almost toppling what is already an emotional rollercoaster ride into a full fledged, over-the-top, Hallmark Channel movie, trying too hard to press emotional buttons already engaged. If this risks “The Good Father” shifting from delightfully sweet to intolerably saccharine for most peoples taste, Heslin and O’Byrne negotiate these dangers with great aplomb. Together they ensure you never stop caring for these two star crossed characters, rooting for them right through till the very final moment.
This latest revival, by Rise Productions, sees “The Good Father” return to the stage fifteen years after first being produced by Druid in 2002. If, in places, “The Good Father” feels just a little dated and overwritten, overall it has weathered the intervening years exceedingly well, standing the test of time far better than some. If you didn’t see it then, there’s no excuse not to see it now. For “The Good Father” has a huge heart, many large laughs, with two crowning performances right at the heart of it. Johnny Cash might cringe in places, but for everyone else “The Good Father” is a Daddy of heartfelt joys. Not to be missed.
“The Good Father” by Christian O’Reilly, produced by Rise Productions, runs at the Viking Theatre, Clontarf, until November 11th before embarking on a national tour.