The Night Alive – Gaiety Theatre – Review
Written by Conor McPherson
Starring – Adrian Dunbar, Frank Grimes, Laurence Kinlan, Ian Lloyd-Anderson and Kate Stanley Brennan
The set comprises a squat-like flat, unkempt with clothing strewn about the place and unwashed mugs and plates lurking in unlikely spots. It exudes a strong sense that the occupier is someone who is not coping well with the vicissitudes of life. That someone is Tommy (Adrian Dunbar) who is separated from his demanding wife and two teenage children. His flat is the front room of a house owned by the cantankerous, fond-of-a-drop, Maurice (Frank Grimes) who lives above and belts the floor if Tommy makes too much noise. Tommy has a van and does odd bits of work assisted by his sidekick Doc (Laurence Kinlan) who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Into this shabby world enters Aimee (Kate Stanley Brennan) who he finds in poor circumstances, bleeding on the street after an argument with her boyfriend. Tommy welcomes Aimee into his home and life, and forms an immediate link with the young woman. Aimee’s past comes back to haunt her though, when her old boyfriend Kenneth (Ian Lloyd-Anderson) arrives to bring a destabilising wrench to the humdrum existence of Tommy.
This is a new play by Conor McPherson, who is well known for his previous work such as the Weir, Shining City and The Birds. The three main characters are well drawn out and each has a complex back story hinted at. There is great variation between scenes, and the light hearted mood can change in an instant. The introduction of Kenneth (Lloyd-Anderson) tips the scales nicely and adds a sinister element to the proceedings and a touch of melodrama.
The scope of the play is quite small and in truth, it is the story of three unlikely friends and their battles to keep their heads above water. None of them have had the easiest of times to this point and the introduction of Aimee further complicates matters.There is a good rapport between the three actors, and an unusual chemistry on stage that is enjoyable to watch. The ending to the play is more complex and can be taken at many levels, and people will get what they want to from it. The ambiguity of the ending has sent many looking to complete the jigsaw, but really McPherson hasn’t given us all the pieces, so speculation will remain just that. McPherson himself wrote that “the end of the play occurs in a different temporal place. A place where resurrection, peace, love and forgiveness are possible”. Even this statement has enough ambiguity to it to allow the audience to read into it what they want. We are allowed to keep guessing and it will no doubt cause much debate at the dinner table or pub afterwards!