Johnny Kinnane is a man with a dream. A 60 foot whale has washed up on the local beach and he has taken on the task of salvaging the creature in the hope of opening a theme park, with its skeleton as the main attraction. Johnny has returned to small town Ireland from Brooklyyn, and is know to all as ‘the Yank’. He runs the local pub and grocery shop, a place that isn’t troubled too often by customers. He is helped in the pub by Dennis, a young man who dreams of becoming a jockey. He has been riding horses out of Cassidy’s stables for some time, but hasn’t told his mother due to the bad blood that exists between the two families. He sees it as his only chance to follow his dream, but the history between the families could mean he is forced to make a choice between his family and his love of riding.
Dreamland is set in 1934 and explores a part of Ireland’s past that we are trying hard to forget. The story revolves around the blueshirts, a political group which are often said to have fascist policies. The introduction of a Jewish father and daughter, who are escaping Hitler’s Germany and arrive in Waterford, allows the author to draw comparisons between the two worlds. The plot moves quickly and tells a variety of stories of small town life, with each of the characters having their own complex tale.
The cast is quite large, with eight actors on stage at various times. In the early scenes in the pubs, they are slowly introduced, so the audience can figure out each of their roles, to slowly put all the pieces together of their various relationships. The ensemble cast is impressive and all have speaking parts, and you feel you know each of them by the end of the play.
The set by Dermot Quinn shows the two sides of the bar room, the inside during the first act, and the external of the pub after the interval. It captures the small details of Ireland in the 30’s with rows of old products and alcohol filling the shelves.
This is a bright and fast paced play that packs a lot into the two hours stage time. It is interesting to hear this part of our history explored and it is not something that is often discussed, and is rather glossed over in our history books. This attempts to shine a light on the period, exploring the battles between the two rival sides and the political beliefs that turned many family members against one other.
Dreamland runs at the Project Arts Centre until March 8th.
Written and Directed by Jim Nolan
Lighting Design by Barry McKinney
Set Design by Dermot Quinn
Costume Design by Kate Moylan
Sound Design by Jamie Beamish
Choreography by Libby Seward
Cast includes Holly Browne, Brendan Conroy, Conall Keating, Des Keogh, Michael Power, Michael Quinlan, Karl Shiels and Catherine Walsh