Lucinda Sly – Civic Theatre – Review


Lucinda Sly – Civic Theatre – Review by Paul McKeown

With marital rape and extra-marital affairs, it is clear that, whatever about Philip Larkin’s England, sex began in Ireland long before 1963. John McKenna’s theatrical adaptation of the true story and trial of Lucinda Sly and her lover for murder of her husband makes it clear that rural Carlow two hundred years ago could give today’s soap operas a run for their money. Black Widow and Toy Boy Arraigned for Murder, rephrased, could well be a headline not from the Sun or Herald but The Carlow Nationalist of March 1835.

This production by the Mend and Makedo Theatre Co succeeds in many ways. Some strong performances and good writing make for moments that are gripping and achieved with considerable skill. However, there are anomalies that are hard to explain.  If actors in nineteenth century peasant dress set the scene outside the theatre and in the foyer, then we shouldn’t expect a principal actor to be wearing a modern fitted red shirt with sleeves too tight to roll up and a double pleat at the back of the collar. As actors spend considerable lengths of time standing upstage with backs to audience such detail is unmissable, jars with the overall production and seems just careless. More than one actor wears modern shoes. This is not nitpicking for the sake of it: in the intimate confines of a theatre such things shatter the all-important illusion the actors are working to create.

The staging is ingenious, with a few crates economically serving as domestic or garden furniture, market stalls, court room podiums and a gallows. They allow scenes to flow easily but their effectiveness could be greatly enhanced by minimising the clanking of heavy wood on the wooden stage by covering the base.

The main problem with the production, however, is one of pace which needs a lot more variation.  Several scenes were written to build towards an element of climax but the rhythm was flattened out, draining them of their dramatic potential. Perhaps the fact that the writer plays three characters (all individuated and carried off with ease) while also directing may account for this. An outside eye and ear would have helped. The cast is headed by Marion Brophy, Tom McGrath and Stephen Casey-Bracken, all of whom are more than up to their parts. Yet the production as a whole is somewhat disappointing, more because of what is almost delivers than because of any serious flaws.

The production continues at the Civic Theatre, Tallaght until this Saturday, May 2nd.

1 reply »

  1. Many thanks for a very fair review and for taking the time to come out and catch the play – greatly appreciated.

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