A SKULL IN CONNEMARA by Martin McDonagh
Billed as the Quentin Tarrantino of the theatre, I didn't know quite what to expect from Martin McDonagh, especially having seen "The Pillowman", another of McDonagh's works. After seeing the play, I think that title may have been stretching it a little too far.
Now that's not to say that I didn't enjoy this very dark comedy, because I did, and I liked it because it left some of the answers that could have been resolved unanswered, as well the story being very dark and being a comedy, and being of Irish descent, I appreciated and recognised the wonderful sharp Irish wit and the sense of humour, there is a difference, believe me, and both were brought to the fore here.
The characters were "real" characters who you'd recognise in your own circle of friends or family, and this makes it so easy to associate with, and understand why they do what they do and what they say.
Ged McKenna plays Mick, and it's very clever of McDonagh to create a character who you can't decide is just lonely and remorseful after his wife dies in a car crash, a character who has regrets about his drunk driving that ended his wife, Oona's life. Or is he a cold blooded killer? His actions slightly blur the lines and it's left up to the viewer to decide.
When Mick Dowd and his young side kick Mairtin (Rhys Dunlop), have to dig up some of the older graves to make way for new burial grounds and he is forced to excavate Oona's grave, but when the grisly task is due, they along with the police officer, Thomas, discover something they did not expect!
Rhys is a cracking comedy actor, the comedy is natural, and the script is clever and relevant to what a character of his age would say.
Ged made you believe that Mick could be possible of doing what was rumoured in the play that he may have done, but still poses questions in your mind. Clever acting and Ged plays Mick as both sympathetic and sinister.
Paul Carroll plays Thomas,the police officer, who, as in all small villages knew everything that went off. The only problem with a little knowledge is that it can be a dangerous thing. Could that be levelled at Thomas though?
And completing the cast is Paddy Glynn who plays Mairtin's grandmother, Maryjohnny, and friend of Mick's. Maryjohnny and Mick known each other for years, there's no secrets between them....or is there? Paddy is excellent in this role as the God fearing, bingo playing woman who knows more than she lets on!
Cleverly directed by Fiona Buffini who managed to create quite a creepy atmosphere with the grave scenes, and kept the mystery rolling along nicely with the scenes before and after the excavation scenes, which was the crux to the whole second act.
With the running time being under two hours including the interval, this meant that the impact of the play was kept to maximum, and no way would you be bored with this sharply directed play.
Loved the set design by Madeleine Girling, both the cosy looking cottage and the eerie grave yard set, complete with sunken grave digging below the stage eyeline. Very realistic which left you feeling a little on edge at the unemotional way that the bodies (bones) were dug up and relocated.
Dark? It definitely is, Comedy? Oh yes, no question about it. Grisly? I think you could add that description to the list as well. "Not for the faint hearted"? That may be a quote too far, but if you like black humour then this is the play to see, and I guarantee that your answer to what may, or may not have happened seven years ago, will differ from the next person.
"A Skull In Connamara" is on at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 6 June 2015