The Boys – Smock Alley – Review by Paddy McGovern
Michael Harnett’s The Boys, set in Drumcondra in 1968, is adapted from his own novel of the same name. As the title suggests, the central characters are a group of lads, mates, all aged about fifteen, in what will probably be their last year together. In this production by Reality: Check Productions, four actors play the four boys – and parents, grandparents, neighbours, teachers and clerics. They also play some girls from the local school and a woman whose 10 pm nightly, pre-bed ritual at her window is the focal point of the young guys’ lives.
All four actors are excellent. Killian Coyle continues to impress as one of the finest young actors around. Like the other three, he shifts with ease between ages and genders, creating characters with minimal gestures and shifts of body language. Ethan Dillon, if anything, covers an even greater range of characters. If his Act l father-figure tilts dangerously close to bellowing caricature, he excels from there on, as the forlorn, isolated, Scout, not to mention his memorable girl from Marymount school – coy, coquettish but willing to take the lead with a bashful wooer. Shane O’Regan’s Brennan also transmutes from school secretary to chesty Granny Hackett with her fags and her ambitions for her grandson. His quiet narration of key changes in Act ll is beautifully rendered. These three actors were outstanding in the recent production of The Spinning Wheel and their performances here confirm the impression.
Laurence Falconer is the guitar-strumming Fay, as well as a sanctimonious Mrs. Brennan, a Jesuit headmaster, and a dog. Yes, a dog. He is as impressive on four legs as on two – even if his canine has picked up some very dubious habits! In the end, Fay is the most reflective of the lads, realising that they are “not breaking up, growing up, that’s what happens, things change”. The second act in many ways is stronger than the first act, not least because it moved on from set-piece, romping fun to some serious issues, giving cast and audience some respite from a loud, incontinent laugher who failed to pick up the subtle shifts of mood throughout.
Tracy Ryan’s fluent, economical and imaginative direction welds the disparate scenes, derived from the novel, into a piece of theatre that works in its own right. The show continues at Smock Alley until October 7th before moving to The Dolmen Theatre from October 11th to 14th. Catch it, you’ll be very glad you did.