Danny And The Deep Blue Sea contains just two characters and both are enthralling. Roberta is played by Clodagh Downing and the character of Danny is played by Edwin Mullane. The play directed by Peter Reid kicks off in a New York bar with Danny emerging on stage bloodied and wild looking. Aptly named “the Beast “ by co-workers his ferocity borders on frightening, especially in a venue so intimate as the Loose Hand Studio at the Civic Theatre. So physically close are you to Danny you feel sure he could swipe you with his fist if he tried. Thankfully the stage lights are dazzling! We quickly learn about his brutal past as he boasts of heinous deeds. Roberta, seated on a barstool, is oddly immune to his rage. She is a mother and divorcee trapped and tormented by her own demons. Rather than listening to a conservation between the characters we hear two disturbing monologues of misery, but slowly something starts to change and what emerges is touching and beautiful.
The acting in the play is accomplished and impressive, Roberta switches with ease from deranged to the cajoling temptress. The odious Danny melts away to reveal his vulnerability and humanity.
There are funny moments too. Danny’s unlikely feminine side prompts plenty of laughter. He reveals a surprising interest in roses, white dresses and marriage, which he sees as a good opportunity to have people toss rice at him “friendly like”.
The set is simple and bare reflecting the harsh environment where the play is set. The bareness is carried through to the bedroom scene, where a single foldup mattress suffices for Roberta’s bed. However at times this looks unintentionally awkward, as the romance unfolds with the pair perched on the rolling mattress’s edge.
This play set in the Bronx is one of John Patrick Shanley’s earlier plays. He may have taken inspiration from his own Bronx upbringing in what he described as “a very violent neighbourhood”. Shanley is one of America’s most successful contemporary playwrights. He has a flair for fast and sharp dialogue. There is an economy to the scenes, that are at times ugly, at times humorous and tender too. The play ends as abruptly as it begins.
I was thoroughly gripped for the length of this play. Before the initial brutality and madness begins to jar it gives way to something softer. John Patrick Shanley’s lines are brilliantly delivered in a seamless production by Back of the Hand theatre company. For something described as “dark” I walked away feeling quite uplifted. Lets hope that was the intention!
Review by Helen O’Leary
The play runs at the Civic Theatre Tallaght, until Saturday 16th November.