Dundrum One Act Festival 2017 – At the Hawk’s Well – Mill Theatre – Review by Audrey Devereux
Friday 17th November, Mill Theatre, Dundrum.
Directed by Aoibhinn Finnegan, this one-act play by Yeats was a feast for the senses in an impressive staging by Balally Players that could challenge many a professional production.
A smoky, atmospheric stage, set with seemingly symbolic prop pieces and stones greeted the audience members thronging to the show. Once the lights went down, the rhythmic beating of a bodhran and plaintive tones of a fiddle, voices and breath heralded the viewers’ entry into a mythic world, inhabited by masked characters: an Old Man (Steve Curran) and a hawk-like woman of the Sídhe (Mairín O’Sullivan), watching over a well that may never spring water; enter Cuchulain (Declan Corcoran), eager to drink of this fountain of eternal youth and so, slowly and enchantingly, unravels a tale of age and youth, deception and unfulfilled desires.
The play itself proceeds more like a dramatised poem set to music, and was, when it was first staged in 1917, the first English play written that adopted aspects of the ancient Japanese Noh form of theatre (a chanted drama). The chorus (Sharon McCoy, Aisling Ní Fhoghlú and Brendan Phelan) are striking in their ability to blend chant and drums, fiddle and voice as a sort of commentary to the players, and it is to the credit of Finnegan’s meticulous direction that the piece flows as cohesively as it does. There is attention to detail in costume and set design that is authentic but not over-bearing and the misty lighting suggests a place lost somewhere in time beside a chilly, unforgiving sea.
While parts of the myth were admittedly lost on this reviewer, the overall theatrical experience was like being transported back in time, with some spine tingling moments of image and sound, telling the story of an old man’s folly and a young man’s pride. Both of these themes appear again and again throughout Yeats’ writing, and as for this production and its authenticity, I think Yeats would have approved.
Written by WB Yeats
Directed by Aoibhinn Finnegan