Tom Murphy's searching, challenging, funny play is a kind of psychological/metaphysical Educating Rita. J.P.W. King, English apostle of the mumbo-jumbo brain-change cult of Dynamatology living in a Dublin garret, is asked by an anonymous millionaire property developer to cure his depression by helping him to sing like the Italian tenor Gigli. During their sessions, each gradually reveals himself and learns the necessity of tempering alcoholic romanticism and brutal realism respectively. Recordings of Gigli sound throughout the play, seeping into the consciousness of King and of his mistress (the only other character), and encapsulating an unarticulated ideal for which both men strive from opposite directions.
Karel Reisz directs a cornucopia of minor, everyday business and characters who genuinely listen to and interact with one another. Tony Doyle lowers magnificently as a man embarrassed by the wildness of his sudden fancy, but Barry Foster's shambling, gesticulating King is on the bravura side – such excesses should be allowed to emerge organically from the text, rather than being writ even larger in performance. The play, though, easily supports even such top-heaviness to provide a generous and satisfying helping of chewy, nutritious food for thought.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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