Johnny Vivash and Kevin Murphy in On McQuillan's Hill

A play which makes most peoples’ complex lives by comparison seem mundane

A play which makes most peoples’ complex lives by comparison seem somehow happily mundane!

Johnny Vivash and Kevin Murphy in On McQuillan's Hill
Johnny Vivash and Kevin Murphy in On McQuillan’s Hill

On McQuillan’s Hill by Joseph Crilly The English premiere at The Finborough Theatre, Kensington. This production supports CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably.

4 Feb – 29 Feb inclusive. No shows on Mondays. Tues to Sat 7.30.   Sat and Sun matinees 3pm.

Additional information is on the website.

In Ireland there is a saying, “It is better to light a penny candle than to curse the darkness”. In Joe Crilly’s play we meet characters who are far removed from the flawless and become darker and darker as the plot unfolds. The late Joe Crilly who allegedly died by self inflicted means, paints a picture of initially likeable individuals who bit by bit become more and more riddled with harsh personality defects some of which are funny, some of which are deeply degrading and serious. But in this new age of LGBT which Crilly may have been involved with, the gay affair between two powerful male actors – Fra Maline (Johnny Vivash) and Dessie Rigg (Kevin Murphy) is not so controversial as it once would have been. However, not to be a plot spoiler, there’s plenty of other “scandals” in the closet which gradually get revealed, some raising a chuckle some introducing a tear or two.

The controversial family name of The Malines is addressed and one wonders at this small scale arena where gossip is prevalent and truths and half truths are shared around like a bag of sweets. Gina Costigan – Loretta Maline is forced to re-address her past and is fighting for a reunion with her daughter and as her personal history unravels, the audience must be impressed by the emotional power of her performances, not to mention Theresa Maline (Julie Maguire) – Loretta’s innocent girl who has undergone advances from dubious suitors. Together with allegations of who is really Loretta’s father and mistaken identities and lustful men – one is cannily portrayed by Declan Rodgers as Ray McCullion, – one is forced to smile as well as gasp at the revelations and incidents that abound in this full-length dramatic production. Giving a modicum of stability to the carryings on is Mrs Tymelly (Helena Bereen) who is holder of the keys to the apartment in the block where all unfolds and she plays an older and wiser character in contrast to the other rather younger players.

Truth and guilt and suppressed elements of the same, lead to the unearthing of complex psychological issues which can be compressed into a drama that in some ways could even be life changing. I am only disappointed to learn of Joe Crilly’s apparent self inflicted end after creating a body of works all so intense, lyrical and meaningful. I can also congratulate the cast who pull together to execute a difficult task, acting out this play in an intimate context. The Finborough Theatre is celebrated and acclaimed as one of the most or actually the most proficient pub theatres in Europe and beyond. All hail to the actors.

And one final point, Sean O’Casey and Eugene O’Neill amongst other Irish playwrights, and also including those who wrote bestselling novels – Angela’s Ashes ( Frank McCourt) and Ulysses (James Joyce) touch on a genre which is quantifiably but not exclusively identifiable with the style of the Irish writer. The Irish history, the deprivation in historical terms, and the struggle with religion and gaining fair treatment politically and in other ways has led writers on a path where absolutely nothing is black and white and where you cannot trust your friend or neighbour above the faith and trust you have in yourself. This certainly does make interesting viewing and reading which proves both educational and shocking, but it is nonetheless applicable to many other sociological issues and situations locally and worldwide.


Penny Nair Price