Sive – Gaiety Theatre – Review
Runs until March 3rd
Photos by Ros Kavanagh
Sive was written by John B. Keane and first performed in 1959 when the playwright was 31 years old. It helped launch Keane’s career as a writer and was his first major success. It is one of his most loved works and is a regular on stage in Ireland.
It is the story of an 18 year old girl, Sive, who was brought up by her Uncle and Aunt after the death of her mother. Her Aunt Mena (Andrea Irvine) has no real affection for the girl and they spend much of their time bickering. The only member of the household who Sive gets along with is her grandmother (Barbara Brennan). When the local matchmaker turns up at their door, he offers Mena a deal to get rid of the unwanted girl by marrying her off to a local man, the only problem being the intended husband, Seán Dóta (Bosco Hogan) is old and frail!
This production is by Galway theatre company Druid. In recent years, the company have been exploring many of Ireland’s most significant writers with the Druid Murphy season focusing on the work of Tom Murphy and also a production of King of the Castle by Eugene McCabe. It would be nice to see such a strong company partner with a new generation of writers, but it is hard to argue with the quality they produce.
While this production does have a number of Druid regulars such as Barbara Brennan, Marie Mullen and Bosco Hogan, there is also some new blood such as Seán Doyle as Liam Scuab and Gráinne Good as Sive. The production also makes the unusual decision of changing the gender of some of the roles, with Marie Mullen playing Pats Bocock and Radie Peat as Carthalawn. The transition works well and the scenes with the travelling tinkers are some of the most affecting, especially with Peat’s haunting singing voice.
One of the main attractions of this production is the presence of Tommy Tiernan in the role of Thomasheen Sean Rua, the matchmaker. His part is largely comedic with the character having many of the best lines. Tiernan does well with the part, which is clearly a role he is well suited for. He does not have to stretch himself too far but he gives an energetic and vibrant performance.
This play is now almost 60 years old and it does feel quite remote from modern day Ireland. It is important to remember that Keane was quite revolutionary and took on the establishment in many of his plays, discussing the difficult issues of the time. The play looks closely at the role of women in society and their freedom to follow their hearts. This is a very strong production of the play and is entertaining throughout, rarely putting a foot wrong. There are impressive comedic moments, but always with a tragic edge. In a time where Ireland prepares to vote on the eight amendment we can look back on the battles of earlier times, and the transition Ireland has gone through to get to this point.
Nana – Barbara Brennan
Mike Glavin – Brian Doherty
Liam Scuab – Seán Doyle
Sive – Gráinne Good
Seán Dóta – Bosco Hogan
Mena – Andrea Irvine
Pats Bocock – Marie Mullen
Carthalawn – Radie Peat
Thomasheen – Seán Tommy Tiernan
Director Garry Hynes
Design Francis O’Connor
Lighting Design James F Ingalls
Sound Design Greg Clarke
Movement David Bolger
Composer Conor Linehan