There Are Little Kingdoms
There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry. Image uncredited.
Small time kings and small town queens live lonely lives in Kevin Barry's There Are Little Kingdoms, with little hope of a happy ever after. Just the same banal catastrophes as history looks doomed to repeat itself. Adapted from Barry's short stories, There Are Little Kingdom takes an unflinching, yet loving view of small town life, displayed in all its wild, hilarious, pain-filled messiness.
Looking like a second cousin to Martin McDonagh's 'West' plays and Eugene O'Brien's superb Eden, There Are Little Kingdoms, presented by Decadent Theatre Company, proves a horse of a similar colour. Perhaps unsurprising given all three have had productions by Decadent Theatre Company. Set in Dramore, it's depressed dog, vinegar twins, stammering man and one alcoholic short of a bar share McDonagh's flair for quirky characters. With everybody sleeping with everyone but their wives, echoes of O'Brien's classic Eden also loom large. Yet where O'Brien aims to dig deep, Barry is aiming for scope, making for a wider, lighter, always entertaining, if not always emotionally satisfying experience.
Complex without being confusing, There Are Little Kingdoms weaves past and present through a series of overlapping tales and recurring characters, shifting scenes seamlessly from monologue to conversation. Initially feeling like a poem in structure and musicality, it soon emerges that what were looking at is a fractured soap opera. One that, if it has some strong emotional moments, seems determined to avoid packing too much of an emotional punch as swingers come to terms with swinging, a man without memory comes to terms with himself, and a young man fails to come to terms with the death of his father.
Under Andrew Flynn's excellent direction, performances from Peter Gowen, Diarmuid De Faoite, Maeve Fitzgerald, Patrick Ryan, Jarlath Tivnan, Aisling Kearns, and Zara Devlin are nothing short of stunning, with most playing multiple roles. Their sitting upstage between scenes like statues might dampen the mood, but it makes up in simplicity and convenience what it lacks in imagination. Showing convenience, simplicity and imagination, Ger Sweeney's impressionist set, beautifully lit by Ciaran Bagnall, cleverly suggests a liminal, twilight space somewhere between the gutter and the stars, where sordid sleaze under the streetlight is looked down on by a crucified christ, suspended mid-air like a saviour, a conscience, or a bad joke.
Produced by Decadent Theatre Company, if the song remains the same in There Are Little Kingdoms, it becomes infinitely new each time you hear it. Hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, Barry's tales of the unexpected might dissolve back into the dark, but the journey they take you on proves to be a memorable one.
There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry, presented by Decadent Theatre Company runs at Town Hall Theatre, Galway, as part of Galway International Arts Festival until September 11.