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By The Bog of Cats – Abbey Theatre – Review

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By the Bog of Cats – Showing on the Abbey Stage – Review

Until Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Bog of Cats is a place not quite of this earth. A barren wasteland where a variety of strange and unusual denizens live along with ghosts that walk the bog by night looking for peace. Hester Swane (Susan Lynch) has lived there her whole life, she is of tinker stock and her mother disappeared when she was only a child. Hester fell in love with a local man, Carthage Kilbride (Barry John O’Connor), and had a child. They had planned to marry, but now many years on they are no longer together and Carthage plans to marry another. They want Hester to leave the bog of cats and let them marry, two things she will not allow!

This is a revival of the Marina Carr play which was originally commissioned by the Abbey and premièred in 1998. Marina Carr is well known for her work such as Woman and Scarecrow and has just been announced as Associate Artist for the Abbey, along with Frank McGuinness and Mark O’Rowe.

Monica Frawley returns as set designer, having worked on the original production. The set which is a large open frozen space is comparatively simple but has a few surprises, with platforms sinking into the stage and projections onto the back wall.

Susan Lynch plays Hester as a fierce, uncompromising woman afraid of no one, much as you would expect. She is powerful and commanding on the outside but is struggling to make sense of being abandoned by her mother and now losing the only man she loved. Many of the smaller parts particularly catch the eye in this production, with the Catwoman (Bríd Ní Neachtain) being one of the highlights. She stalks the bog, blind but all seeing, giving prophecies of doom to all around her. Mrs. Kilbride (Marion O’Dwyer) plays the part of the over powering mother, more concerned with her shoes than her son’s happiness on his wedding day!

There are some great scenes in the play, with the wedding being the highlight. It forms the quintessential Irish country wedding, complete with Joe Dolan and songs such as Blanket on the Ground. The production delights in the minute detail and the scene is extremely funny. At other times it sinks into melodrama and the final sequences drag on for too long. Overall a mixed bag of some very good ideas and others that don’t quite hit the mark, but an interesting and inventive work none the less.

Running time: 2 hours 20 mins (including a 20 minute interval)
Credits –

Jane Brennan – Monica Murray
Emmet Byrne – Waiter
Caoimhe Cassidy – Waiter
Elodie Devins – Josie Kilbride
Peter Gowen – Xavier Cassidy
Susan Lynch – Hester Swane
Eve Maher – Josie Kilbride
Bríd Ní Neachtain – Catwoman
Des Nealon -Father Willow
Rachel O’Byrne – Caroline Cassidy
Barry John O’Connor – Carthage Kilbride
Marion O’Dwyer – Mrs. Kilbride
David Shannon – The Ghost Fancier
Rob Walsh – Young Dunne
Niall Wright – The Ghost of Joseph Swane

Donal O’ Farrell – Fight Director
David Bolger – Movement Director
Marina Carr – Writer
Selina Cartmell – Director
Monica Frawley – Set and Costume Design
Sinéad Wallace – Lighting Design
Isobel Waller-Bridge – Composer and Sound Design
Kilian Waters -AV Design

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