Bush Theatre, London W12
Opened 18 November, 1991

The taped choral prelude encapsulates the whole piece: you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you'll find you get what you need. Middle-aged sacristan Artie O'Leary mourns his past affair with the priest's housekeeper Angela (the lament of Art O'Leary, geddit?); young Father Pat (a blistering performance by Gary Lydon) periodically finds himself unequal to his ministry; ESN altar-boy Dominic, an overgrown innocent scamp, leaves his mark on each of their lives.

This final part of Billy Roche's Wexford trilogy is even less boring than the life of his Coronation Street near-namesake. It bubbles captivatingly with a richness of anecdote and portraiture; his gorgeously executed non-chronological snapshots of moments are linked (less adroitly) by Artie's monologues, and (more cheekily) by the use of Rolling Stones numbers as choric comments. When Act Two opens to "Paint It Black", you know that Artie and Angela's game is up; when husband Donal requests a baptismal certificate only to tear it up in Artie's face, the confrontation is given an electric edge. Robin Lefèvre's beautifully judged production of Roche's fine play is as good as most theatre should be, but all too little is. A wee honey, so it is.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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