After Sarah Miles – Review by Frances Winston
Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 8.
Nightly (except Sunday) at 8pm until June 7th
This play has had an interesting genesis, beginning life as a staged reading in Beehive Theatre in Dingle in 2013 before enjoying a run at The Viking Theatre in Clontarf, Dublin in July of that year. Most recently it has been touring the country and actor Don Wycherley, who performs the piece, has posted every detail of his adventures in different venues on Facebook alongside the trials and tribulations of getting publicity for the show. His posts could prove the beginning of a play themselves but that is a whole other story. Having finally made its way back to Dublin they had a prestigious guest on opening night in the form of acting royalty Juliet Mills who sat front and centre for the duration of the show (and found a reference to fellow actress Sarah Miles breasts so funny she laughed out loud at it). All of which makes for interesting anecdotes but great behind the scenes stories can sometimes mean that the work itself is below par. Thankfully in this case it doesn’t and the piece is both poignant and engaging.
Written and directed by Michael Hilliard Mulcahy it sees Don play Bobeen, a fisherman who has had a chequered life. From working on Ryan’s Daughter as a teenager and having Robert Mitchum buy his first pint to discovering a dolphin living in the bay to heartbreak after a fleeting encounter, Bobeen has been through the mill and then some. Don takes us on his journey from a fourteen year old movie extra in 1969 to his later years without stopping for breath. The story is littered with colourful characters and they are all brought to life through his physicality and use of accents and he never misses a beat. There are highs and great lows and all are treated with equal reverence. The intimate venue allows him to really engage with the audience and at times it is almost as if you are sitting in a bar hearing the story from Bobeen rather than in a theatre watching an actor play him. There are moments of huge humour and also huge pathos and everything in between.
As the story builds there are a couple of points where it almost feels as if it has reached an organic end but there is still more to come and here the pacing does suffer slightly. However this is a minor quibble in what is an otherwise tender and compelling piece of storytelling. Wycherley was a brilliant choice for the role of Bobeen and, as should happen, you forget that you are watching an actor and only see the character after the first few minutes. The staging is simple but effective and the lighting and sound both perfectly compliment the dialogue.
Deeply moving this runs the gamut of emotions and at 80 minutes it never gets boring. You constantly find yourself wondering what is going to happen next and it constantly surprises. This is a powerful piece that deserves a look if only for Wycherley’s performance.