The director writes in Directors Notes, "London-born playwright Martin McDonagh is the current enfant terrible
of the theatre world." That he is a child of the theatre is undeniable - in all senses. Persephone Theatre's production A Skull in Connemara
despite solid acting performances and exquisite production values reveals a playwright revelling in theatrical hijinks and linguistic fireworks leaving me the hope that 'enfant' McDonagh will develop his skills beyond the mid-90's great burst of drafts of seven plays in nine months and eventually grow up. Apparently he agrees: "I just need some quiet time to write, hang out and grow up." (Time
Dark, droll, comic dialogue and blood crafted to turn cartoonish violence into art while taking a realistic approach to farcical situations cannot disguise the lack of substance. Entertaining it may be but ultimately the characters who argue endlessly fail to overcome their isolation. Their humanness is mistreated as the narrative spins lives doomed to shallow complacent misery and despair. Powerful comedies overcome murder with mercy and a fleeting, ephemeral triumph over adversity through the power of storytelling.
All the actors must be commended, though it is Susan Williamson (Mary) who with two bold strokes best defies the the abstract invention of "Irishness" which typifies the quarrelsome relationships presented in the cast of four. Her complete embracing of the "otherness" with impeccable dialect and nuanced gestures genuinely roots her character, if not in authentic Irishness, at least to a total acceptance of this imaginary culture which curiously then transcends to create a universal busy body grandmother type. Her clearly articulated and well defined choice to find moments of tenderness allow a glimpse into the core of companionship buried deep in this text. Precisely by finding warmth, particularly in her moments of silence, shock and realization, does the often cold & brutal action lift towards a sense of why the past needs to be dug up or how gossip and innuendo reconstruct to haunt the present or should secrets be left to lie ...
Talking with a group of high school youth after the production they were excited and loved the liberally spiced language (Feck/Fecking/Fecker), the drunkenness, the blood, the smashing of skulls and digging into graves. They also pondered the quintessential question: "Would you mind having your skull smashed after death?" Artistic Director Del Surjik may have been very shrewd selecting McDonagh. Bringing this highly acclaimed and controversial theatre celebrity to Saskatoon audiences seems legitimate and relevant.
- See: Plays
:: note :: ... one of the high school students mentioned, though A Skull in Connemara was easier to enjoy his preference was the previously attended Waiting for Godot ... it seemed to him that writing for the joke and instant laugh the play would not stand the test of time ... Godot was full of timeless ambiguity that resonated long after viewing ... we shall see ...