Ledwidge – The New Theatre – Review by M Quinn
Ledwidge by Gerard Humphreys
The New Theatre – Feb 27th – Mar 11th
Francis Edward Ledwidge is widely known as a poet who died on the battlefield. He was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I, in July 1917 at the age of 29. The play starts in the years immediately before he sets off to fight. We get to see who the man was and what prompted his decision to fight in a war that did not directly involve Ireland.
Those paying attention will no doubt have noticed that this is not the first time playwright Gerard Humphreys has written about Ledwidge. Friendly Fires was performed at the same venue last year. This new production uses much of the same script but has been significantly reworked, hence the new name. The cast has also been altered from the original.
There is a simple set, with a number of wooden crates used to form the backdrop and even a counter for the hotel scenes. Some imagination is required to create the variety of settings such as fields, hotels and the battlefield.
There are five members of the cast and they carry the story well. Ethan Dillon plays Ledwidge as a charismatic and entertaining character, who is filled with strong emotions. Ian Meehan plays the dual role as Timmie and Lord Dunsany. He works well as the younger character, but suffers in the scenes as Dunsany. Katie O’Kelly plays the wistful Shivvie, a woman deeply in love with the main protagonist, but the emotion is never quite reciprocated. Amy O’Dwyer plays Ellie Vaughey, Ledwidge’s true love. She is a pure and gentle spirit, although she makes a sensible rather than emotional choice when it comes to her marital affairs. Barbara Dempsey plays Katie Conyngham, who works at the local hotel. She is a strong and opinionated woman, handing out white feathers to the ‘cowards’ who remain in Ireland, unwilling to fight.
One of the main drawbacks is that you always know where the play is headed, so there is very little tension during the final scenes. It has an atypical story arc, even though the playwright has done his best to impose structure on Ledwidge’s life. The play has a number of scenes that work well, and Ledwidge is painted as a complex character. The cast do a good job and the characters are well drawn out, each having their own distinct presence.
Ethan Dillon – Francis Ledwidge
Barbara Dempsey – Katie Conyngham
Amy O’Dwyer – Ellie Vaughey
Katie O’Kelly – Shivvie
Ian Meehan – Timmie/Dunsany
Anthony Fox – Director
Stage Manager – Cèin Sookram
Tour Liaison and Development – Jim Myers
Set Design – Orla Reynolds
Lighting Design – Cathy O’Carroll
Score – Ciara McElholm
Costume – Jessica Dunne