Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Molly Sweeney @ The Gate

Brian Friel's play Molly Sweeney returns to the Gate for a short run and I attended the opening night yesterday evening.  The original 1994 production toured to London and Broadway, to critical and popular acclaim, winning amongst others, the Drama Critics' Circle Award.  Dawn Bradfield plays the eponymous Molly, a middle-aged blind woman from Donegal, who is talked into having surgery to restore her sight by her effusive husband, Frank, performed to great effect by Peter Hanly.  Mr Rice, played by Michael Byrne, is the once-great surgeon who attends her.  The set, designed by Paul Keogan, is astonishingly minimal.  I heard someone comment "now they spent money on that set!"  It's just some chairs and windows, like a waiting room.  Effective use of lighting means it looks quite different at various times in the play.  Occasional theatre-goers may not be familiar with the monologue style.  The 3 actors never interact which each other but all are on stage for the whole play.  Each one speaks in turn, mimicking the others when necessary and relating the story, as if to friends.  The other 2 actors are silent but occasionally move during the other's part.  Great use of spotlights is made here, obviously.  I'd only seen one other play done like this before (Unravelling the Ribbon at the Project Arts Centre), and I felt it worked better than this one.
Dawn Bradfield as Molly Sweeney.  Courtesy of The Gate.

The story reaches a climax with the end of Act 1 and then takes an emotional downturn for the second act.  Bradfield's performance rises and falls appropriately with the intense emotion she portrays.  It was a nice touch to have her barefoot, showing her character's inner vulnerability, while outwardly projecting confidence.
Peter Hanly as Frank Sweeney.  Courtesy of The Gate.

It's not a crowd-pleasing piece, but taut acting and an engaging story keeps the audience's attention. 

Molly Sweeney runs until 23rd July.  Tickets are €20 - €35 and can be booked on the Gate's website, and in the usual places.

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