Losing the Plot – Review by Frances Winston
Theatre@36, The Teacher’s Club, 36 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1
June 16th – 21st – at 8pm
The Celtic Tiger claimed many victims. Some were unlucky and bought property that ended up in negative equity. However some were just plain greedy like the protagonist of this play Eddie, a farmer with aspirations to build a luxury estate on his family land and sell the properties at a healthy profit. Egged on by local lad turned property lawyer John Fitzgerald he gets completely sucked into the world of property development neglecting the farm, much to his brother Willie’s chagrin as he is forced to hire farmhands, and even hiring a nurse, Sandra, to look after his ailing mother as he no longer has the time.
Unfortunately Eddie is getting into the market just as everyone else is getting out and a few months in he realises that his property empire may not be the cash cow that he imagined. Having borrowed money from Fitzgerald, who still carries a torch for old flame Sandra, to fund the venture he is put under more and more pressure to deliver the goods. With Willie begrudgingly subsidising his venture and his sister living in the showhouse with her fiancé Tommy, who took the home in lieu of pay for working as project manager, he is feeling the pressure. When it is revealed that the family farm is at stake and that Fitzgerald could actually end up owning everything they have worked for tensions run high as Willie tries to right his brothers wrong and family and relationships are torn asunder.
This has a very complex plot. There are so many back stories and relationship histories being thrown about that it is sometimes hard to keep track. This means there is also a lot of exposition as things are explained to the audience in great detail which does drag at times. Thankfully the cast have a great energy and keep it moving along. Neil McCourt and Enda Connaughton are especially well matched as the polar opposite brothers Eddie and Willie while Reidin O’Connor does a good job as Sandra who finds herself torn between her former love Fitzgerald and the far more grounded Willie.
There are some plot points that don’t work. For example there is confusion about phone signals with one character making a call from a landline as he says he has no signal but ringing through to a mobile in the kitchen of the farmhouse which clearly does have coverage. Also, Evelyn later asks Sandra why her old bedroom was empty when she stayed one night implying it is where Sandra sleeps but we have quite clearly been told early on that she will be sleeping in the guest room.
Fitzgerald is supposed to be from the locality but has a very clear Dublin accent and even though he has been living away from the area for some years this seems a bit unbelievable. Alongside all this there is quite a bit of telegraphing which is unnecessary as the audience are capable of noticing certain things on their own.
At an hour and fifteen minutes for the first act and around an hour for the second this is somewhat longer than it needed to be. There are some elements that could be removed and others that could be cut back considerably. It gets rather melodramatic as it builds to a climax and is left somewhat open ended for the audience leaving us to make up our own minds about what happened next but because the real villain of the piece never really seems to get his come uppance that is somewhat dissatisfying.
This is a good idea that works really well when it works but dips considerably when it doesn’t. However the cast all do a great job and it has some lovely moments of drama. With a few revisions this could be great. As it is it is worth a look to see the real consequences faced by some people during the boom and is an engaging enough piece that has great promise.
Featuring Anthony Blake Kelly (Gerry Springer Show, Waking Nosferatu), Enda Connaughton , Reidin O’Conor, Sonia Lavelle, Eoin Mannion, and Neil McCourt.
Directed and written by Brian Murray.
Stage-managed by Deirdre Jones.