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  • Chris O'Rourke

The Empty Nest

Joan Sheehy and Seamus O'Rourke in The Empty Nest. Image uncredited


Empty nesters. Those whose brood have flown the family nest to go make a nest for themselves. Leaving Mam and Dad, in this case Mayo couple Tony and Sheila Molloy, wondering how to live out their remaining years now the kids have gone. Oisin Flores Sweeney’s delightful tale of second chances asking small questions which make a big difference. Like what will we watch on TV tonight? How expensive is it to go to Paris? Are we living alone together, or together alone in a reverie of unquestioned habit? Knee deep in hilarity and insight, Sweeney’s sharply astute debut play, The Empty Nest, seen here in preview, explores the struggle of establishing a new normal when life undergoes major change. Made harder when you discover that the old normal wasn’t quite what you thought it was in the first place.

Like Gogglebox, The Empty Nest involves sitting around the TV commenting on whatever programme happens to be on. Tony and Sheila punctuating their observations with comments about their own troubled relationship. Their shared life amounting to watching TV and babysitting the grandkids every night. Like Gogglebox, there’s little to speak of in terms of action. The Empty Nest being more a character study of a relationship rather than a story. One in which TV tropes loom large. Like The Honeymooners, or The Simpsons, the husband and wife relationship is one of a curmudgeonly yet frail male ego, who’s not the brightest spark, being challenged by his wiser, smarter, long suffering wife. Seamus O’Rourke’s tightfisted, conspiracy theorist of a Mammy’s boy an absolute comic joy. Joan Sheehy’s travel curious, life loving, wishing for more wife equally terrific. O’Rourke and Sheehy’s natural chemistry igniting at every turn. The sexually descriptive Sheila traumatising Tony with images he’s never going to forget, truths he can’t believe, and an offer he can’t refuse. Even as Tony has some truths he himself needs to tell. As it all draws to an end, change, like Tony’s diet, might be a promise just around the corner. But that corner is about to be turned, with no turning back.

Given The Empty Nest’s compositional simplicity, Geoff Gould's direction focuses primarily on character, with both performances being paced beautifully. Gould knowing his main job is to keep things on track as O'Rourke and Sheehy set about doing their thing. O’Rourke’s superb comic timing enviable and brilliant, with Sheehy as straight woman also delivering scathing lines of laughter. If set proves ingeniously simple, music signifying the passing of time proves oddly off putting for it being unclear how much time has actually passed. Similarly lights, which work too hard at times and draw unneeded attention to themselves as in the horror movie scene. None of which undermines Sweeney’s hugely funny, uncomfortably accurate, and comedically sharp script. Nothing much might happen as it meanders along, but Sweeney’s cut throat observations of marriage, TV, and rural Mayo cut hilariously close to the quick. Mix in the delicious, comic chemistry between O’Rourke and Sheehy and The Empty Nest proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The Empty Nest by Oisin Flores Sweeney runs at The Viking Theatre until Nov 11th.

For more information visit The Viking Theatre


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