Emma Toner reviews the opening of ‘A Skull in Connemara’ @ Civic Theatre, Tallaght

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In a rural cottage in Connemara Mick Dowd and May Johnny are sharing a sup of poitin, they are rudely interrupted by May Johnny’s wild grandson Martin and soon a slagging match ensues.  This is the setting for Decadent Theatre’s production of Martin McDonagh’s ‘A Skull in Connemara’ in the Civic Theatre Tallaght.  This play is the second in McDonaghs’s Leenane trilogy and the plot is characteristically dark.  Mick Dowd is a gravedigger who is employed by the priest every year to exhume bones from the graveyard and dispose of them.  Dispose of them he does, he gleefully admits to May Johnny “I hit them with a hammer until they were dust”.  This time though Mick is charged with the job of digging up the bones of his own wife, Una who died 7 years previously as a result of ‘a drink driving’.

Make no mistaking; this is a dark, twisted and gruesome play which is also hysterically funny.  You will find yourself laughing at the most inappropriate of jokes, identifying with Mick, the belligerent alcoholic and willing Martin to be pushed into an open grave.  McDonagh has been accused of being ‘stage Irish’ and the characters could be seen as caricatures of rural Irish people but McDonagh gives them just enough humanity to soften them to the audience.

The set is impressive, lighting and sound striking, giving the whole production a slick finish to add to the drama.  McDonagh presents a morbid take on small town Ireland where the people blather about the neighbours and accusations fly.  Brid Ni Neachtin is fantastic as May Johnny, the ‘fat ould one’ and has perfected her characters mannerisms so that every Irish person will know their own local May Johnny.  John Olohan’s Mick Dowd is half repulsive half endearing; you will judge yourself for enjoying him smashing skulls with a hammer like they are toys.  Jarlath Tivnan as Martin is the most absurd character who is played with energy and in the end compassion.  Patrick Ryan as Martin’s brother the local chain smoking/asthmatic Guard with a few secrets of his own is also a skilled performance.  This is the wild Wechst complete with schkulls, schtickts and schnearing, you will cringe, laugh and be highly entertained.

 ~ Reviewed by Emma Toner

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A Skull in Connemara runs at the Civic Theatre until Sat 16th February in the Main Auditorium. Tickets are available online at www.civictheatre.ie or phone 01 4627477.

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About Civic Theatre

The Civic Theatre's Mission is to mount an artistic and challenging programme of contemporary and classical Irish and international work in Theatre, Dance, Opera and Music for the community of South Dublin county and environs. History The Civic Theatre, opened in March 1999, a project of South Dublin County Council and also grant aided by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. The first production at The Civic Theatre Tallaght was Howie the Rookie by Mark O'Rowe, directed by Mike Bradwell and starring Aidan Kelly and Karl Shiels. It opened on the 23rd March 1999. Since opening we have developed relationships with most Irish theatre companies and most opera, contemporary dance, ballet and children's theatre companies, developing healthy audiences for these. We are particularly proud of our co-productions – to date we've produced; or co-produced 22 plays, involving new Irish writing. We have hosted wonderful international productions, fantastic local work, and we have had some terrific nights of music on stage at the Civic.
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