Best Man – Project Arts Centre – Review

Best Man image 7 photo credit Michael MacSweeney

This is an unusual work from Carmel Winters, who previously wrote ‘B is for Baby’ which won the Irish Times best new play award in 2010. It tells the tale of the introduction of a Nanny into a quite unorthodox Irish household. Kay Keane (Derbhle Crotty) is a high flying real estate agent and loves her job. She is the bread winner in the family and her husband Alan (Peter Gowen) has given up his job to look after the kids and write a novel. When Alan realizes that he will never make headway with his writing while he has to look after the kids, they start looking for a Nanny to fill his role. They eventually make the curious choice of Marta, a glamorous Bolivian who ticks all their boxes but it is clear from outset that this is never going to end well.

This is a tale of sex and power struggles between the characters on display, with the children used as pawns in the adults battles. Derbhle Crotty is very much the lead role and has a number of extremely demanding scenes, including one of the raunchiest ones I’ve seen on stage in Dublin in many a year.  The tale takes a number of unexpected twists that catch the audience off guard but these are best discovered for yourself (Spoiler free zone!). At just under two and a half hours (including a 15 minute interval) it did feel a little too long and there are a number of sub plots that didn’t add greatly to the piece. The introduction of Bryan Murray as the former Irish Ambassador to Bolivia and Marta’s father was an interesting storyline, but is largely left unresolved and stops as suddenly as it started.

The staging of the play is very creative and ambitious, and the use of projections onto the set to show images from a perfect childhood or a lifetime of power and influence create the tone for the various characters. There are impressive production values throughout, and time and money has been spent on this play.

The best scenes are in the early stages of the play, as husband and wife Alan and Kay battle each other with some great one liners and interesting insights, but after the interval the play struggles to capture the heights and promise of these early scenes. The performance of Crotty is outstanding though, and she creates a very interesting character in this powerful woman, who is capable of fighting and winning all battles in the outside world, but struggles behind closed doors.

Best Man runs at the Project Arts centre from 16 – 27 July ~ with Tickets €22/€18
Matinee 27 July, 3pm ~ Tickets €18

Kate Stanley Brennan in Best Man photo credit Michael MacSweeney


Written by Carmel Winters
Directed by Michael Barker-Caven
Produced by Rachel Murray
Set & Costume Design by Liam Doona
Lighting Design by Sinéad McKenna

Starring: Derbhle Crotty, Peter Gowen, Kate Stanley Brennan, Roisin O’Neill, Bryan Murray and Una Crawford O’Brien

All Photos by Michael McSweeney

Best Man image 3 photo credit Michael MacSweeney

Categories: Theatre

3 replies »

  1. Hi guys! I have also seen the play and to be frank not quite agree with some of the points you outline. “The best scenes are in the early stages of the play” – I presume you meant funniest. After interval play got much more serious on the emotional level and perhaps if you were expecting it to be a divine comedy, you wouldn’t have liked it, but to say that it struggled to capture the heights is very much unfair. The entire second part is much deeper, exploring how one decision can lead to a wreckage of the entire life of not only one person, but the whole family.
    I have also written a review on this performance on my blog, have a read and see what you think.

    • Hi, Thanks for the comment. My issues with the play after the interval was not to do with the lack of humour, but that it lacked direction and was less tight than what went before. I would agree that the second section was much more ambitious than the first with what it was trying to do. It was an interesting play and well acted, but I think it missed the chance to be something special. Glad you enjoyed it anyway…

      • I see where you coming from. Anyway as you mentioned yourself, it’s all about the opinion and there isn’t right or wrong one 🙂

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