On Sunday, Mrs Yogic and I went to see Misterman by Irish playwright Enda Walsh at the National Theatre. Performed by just one man in the cavernous space of the Lyttleton, this is the most sublimely affecting theatre I’ve seen in years. Cillian Murphy is an astonishing actor and the star of two of my favourite films of the last fifteen years: Disco Pigs and 28 Days Later. He is at his best in this brilliant play about faith, imagination and memory set in smalltown Ireland.
His character, Thomas Magill, flits between mania and vulnerability, evangelical passion and childish nervousnes as he reconstructs one day in his life in Inishfree through a series of dialogues, some spoken by Murphy (who’s an excellent ventriloguist) and some recorded onto numerous reel to reel players dotted around the huge industrial-style set. This workshop-cum-prison, which might be interpreted as a physical representation of the unstable mind of Magill, is brought to life by some of the best lighting and sound design I’ve witnessed. I’m not usually brought to tears at the theatre, or compelled to give a standing ovation, but Misterman produced both. This play will haunt me for a long time.
The most memorable piece of theatre I saw was at NSDF Scarborough, 2003; Cambridge Footlight’s production of Enda Walsh’s 2001 play Bedbound, with Cressida Trew and Khalid Abdalla, immediately before he went off and became a Hollywood star. The set was a cube, one side of which dropped open at the start of the play to reveal a bed bound young woman in it, and sitting on the edge of it, her father. From the off the language grabs you round the neck as the father lets rip a succession of fifteen or so ‘fucks’ and ‘fucking hell’s. For the first 30 seconds or so I was trying to figure out if Abdalla’s accent was fake Irish or not, but by the time I had sussed out it was, it didn’t matter as the poetry in the language had me.
DAD: Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, fucking hell, fucking hell, fuck fuck fuck Jesus fuck!! Fucking hell! Jesus, Dan Dan!
Me in the bed. I can feel these blankets wrapped around me like a sea, and me a little shrimp ways underneath. Feel them wrapped around me bony body ribs making me stay in the bed. Squeeze me lungs out of me gob making shout, ‘fucking hell get out of bed, Maxie!! You’re late!! I swing me legs out of the bed already running I run inta tha jacks! There’s me big brother Jerry on the jacks having an early morning crap!! I smack him a left hook!! Shmack!! He hits the ground like the sack of shit he is!! ‘I’ll deal with you later, kiddo!’ Splish splash run the tap and get scrubbing me face.!
DAD and DAUGHTER – Gotta be clean!! Havta look sharp!
DAD: Look in the mirror at the fifteen year old me looking back! ‘Gotta get to work, Maxie!! Only fourteen seconds to save the planet Earth, Flash!’ Spin back to the bedroom and into the suit!! A bit damp from washing it last night but fuck it!! Isn’t it always damp from its late night wash!? Have ta be clean! Gotta get going! Inta the wet shirt! On with the damp suit! Jesus I’m the smart one! Sharp is what I am!! Outta my smelly hole gaffe, the stink of the hot sweet milk in the air, a breakfast puke! A family of lazy fucks huddled around the electric heater like laboratory rats, I leave the fucks behind. Shame shame!! Fucking shame!!
Have a gander at the rest of it. It is some of the best poetry of that time I have read.