THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD
Cottesloe Theatre, London SE1
Opened 20 February, 2001

Fiona Buffini's production not great, but very good captures both the comedy and pathos of Synge's Irish classic.

Buffini's production and Robert Jones's design are scrupulous in creating the atmosphere of a Co. Mayo shebeen, into which stumbles young Christy Mahon, on the run after killing his father. In publican's daughter Pegeen Mike he finds a kindred spirit, both yearning for someone to end their loneliness, but he also finds himself lionised by the small community... until his father turns up, head bandaged and roaring revenge.

Patrick O'Kane is not at his subtlest as Christy, either the ragged, hunted fellow who first arrives or the blossoming hero of the title, and he is eclipsed by Derbhle Crotty's excellent Pegeen Mike, a woman tormented by desires bigger than anything the life of her village can offer. As the knowing, manipulative Widow Quinn, Sorcha Cusack wears a permanent smirk as she tries to engineer the outcome she wants; as Christy's father, James Ellis reminds us why we should give thanks for this fine character actor. Almost a century on, the play feels too cod-"Oirish" at times, and some of the minor performances don't help matters, but there is more to the evening than Hibernian cliché.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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