The Leaves of Heaven – The Complex – Review


The Leaves of Heaven – The Complex – Review

Until Sunday 27th November at the Complex, Little Mary Street.

The Butcher Boy was Pat McCabe’s most successful novel. it was published in 1992 and told the story of Francie Brady, a young boy growing up in small town Ireland in the 1960s. The book went on to receive much praise and was nominated for the Booker prize. It later spawned a stage adaptation in the form of ‘Frank Pig says Hello’ and was adapted for the screen by Neil Jordan in 1997.

This new work by McCabe continues the story of Francie. He is no longer the quiet boy of yesteryear. He is a grown man and still troubled by his actions in the past. At the end of the novel, Francie murders one of his neighbours, Mrs. Nugent, and was arrested for his crime. He was incarcerated in Dundrum Mental Hospital, which is the setting for this new work. We get to see Francie’s daily routine and feverish nightmares as he lives out his days.

The set is impressive and made from the cheapest of materials in cardboard. There are houses dotted around the stage, a park bench on one side and a giant moon on the other. A hospital bed is placed in the centre of the stage.

The play is a two hander with Francie played by Brian Mallon and Mairead Devlin playing a multitude of other characters. There are a variety of dolls, dummies and paper mache figures on stage and the two actors bring them to life. We get an insight into the other inmates and doctors in the mental institution and how they interact with Francie. Even the Virgin Mary turns up to sit on Francie’s bed to eat sweets and sing songs!

This is the world première of this new work by McCabe and it is slightly surprising that it is being presented in the Complex, which is a versatile art space on Little Green Street just off Capel Street. It will be missed by many who only check out the usual haunts.

The narrative does not have a clear story arc, but is instead a number of disjointed scenes that give you a vision of Francie’s troubled mind. At times it is quite challenging for the viewer. It is never clear how much of the activity takes place inside Francie’s head and how much in reality. The play focuses on the various characters in Francie’s world, with a number of character sketches of the unhinged minds in the institution. The two actors do an impressive job of bringing this world to life. Mairead Devlin excels playing everything from the Mother of our Lord to the hospital cleaning lady. The creative staging and use of puppets add to the inventive and fun feel of the production as this dark world is explored.



Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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