Two short plays by Jennifer Johnston
Moonlight and Music – Waiting
There are certain similarities between these two short plays. Both are for a single actor of “uncertain age”, both are set on the cusp of a major upheaval in the protagonist’s life, and both involve a reflection on their lives to date. In each play the audience is taken into the confidence of the actor.
There is a confessional quality as each has a secret which eventually is revealed. Another similarity is that both plays although monologues introduce several other characters. Each of those characters are easy to visualise as Jennifer Johnston has a sure-footed ability to describe vividly, by well-chosen words, a character. Lisa Ann Mcloughlin as Rose Fleming in Moonlight and Music and Geraldine Plunkett as Eithne Callaghan in Waiting returned the compliment by bringing to life a father, a mother and a husband as well as a best friend and a somewhat ineffectual school principal “with a mole under his eye”. By the end of the evening the audience had met a community of varied individuals with whom it was easy to relate.
In Moonlight and Music Rose, a school teacher, arrives back in her unkempt apartment having received the sack because she has “a problem”. After she has settled into a comfy pair of slippers, she tells of her interview with the head teacher, the fellow with “the mole under his eye” that afternoon, her happy relationship with her more enthused pupils and as she does she falls into songs made famous by Ella Fitzgerald such as “Let’s face the music and dance”. She reveals what her “problem” is in an undramatic way, there are tell-tale signs on display in the set and she gradually talks about her father and mother and her childhood. It is not a happy family story but McLoughlin tells it with a great deal of variety of tone and manages to extract, with her timing, the humour which lies within the text. While Rose’s story is bleak she is not in any way self-pitying and even if her future is uncertain she has self-respect. But like everyone she craves love so Ella Fitzgerald’s lyrics hit the spot. McLoughlin has a challenging character to portray in Rose and she does the part proud.
In Waiting, a wife Eithne, soon to be a widow, is waiting in a hospital for her husband to die. She reminisces about her mother (her father died when she was three), the shop in Glasthule in which she was reared, meeting her unloquacious fellow and their life together as shopkeepers in a corner shop in Holland Park, London. It was the time when the mail boat from Dun Laoghaire was the means of escape. She too has a secret which she has not even told her best friend but she tells it to the audience. Plunkett while portraying Eithne with a knowing insight of pride and independence introduces the impressive mother, her chatty cousin-the best friend and the less than chatty husband, each with their various quirks. They are recognisable human beings. Eithne by her standards has had a successful life if monetary matters were the sole criteria but like Rose there is an element missing.
At the end the audience was conscious it had entered into the lives of two ordinary but impressive women. The Dolmen Theatre are to be congratulated in reviving these two intelligent and sensitive short plays as a double bill, each is a jewel. Jennifer Johnston is a meticulous observer and is a true story teller.
Moonlight and Music and Waiting – Two short plays by Jennifer Johnston
Directed by Caroline FitzGerald
Opening at The Dolmen Theatre (above the Magic Carpet Pub, Cornelscourt, D.18)
Tuesday 1st September -Saturday 12th September 2015 8pm, tickets €12.
Preview on Monday 31st August, 8pm, tickets €10