After the triumph of the trilogy's final part Belfry last year, the Bush revives all three of Billy Roche's plays with, as far as possible, the original casts. Dervla Kirwan debuted in the 1988 production of this play, and returns as Linda, the long-suffering and eventually estranged girlfriend of ne'er-do-well Jimmy Brady. Jobless, alternately hanging around the pool table in the local club (the sole setting) and engaging in minor crimes, oppressed by the pettiness of small-town social aspirations but unable to forge any alternative other than rebellious destruction, Jimmy is on a classic downward spiral. Gary Lydon superbly captures his frustration with everything including his own responses to the world around him; in a brilliantly semi-congruous touch, his personal anthem on the club's jukebox is PiL's "Rise".
Roche explains his writing method in terms of sitting quietly and listening to his fictional people, letting them say and do what they will. In this sense, his hearing is magnificently acute. A Handful Of Stars focuses on ordinary lives without either belittling or heroising them; from Conway (Des McAleer) with his smug cynicism and craven sycophancy to young Tony, sliding inexorably into a passionless marriage for convention's sake, these characters have no trace of being an author's creatures. The performances of the entire trilogy in one Saturday have already sold out, but it shows every sign of being well worth three separate trips.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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