Desire – New Theatre – Review
Desire by Peter Reid – Until Mar 10th @ 7.30pm
This is the tale of Eugene Hyland. He is the eldest son of the local T.D. and factory owner. His family are well off and he never took up a profession, instead living off the small allowance he receives each month. He spent a number of loose years in London. During this period he had a relationship with a married woman. He enjoyed their time together as it was based purely around sex. When the woman started to profess her love for him, it was ruined and he ended the affair. He returned home to Ireland after the death of his father. He inherited everything and some people saw him as a natural successor to his father in politics. It is around this time he was introduced to Stepanida, a beautiful Latvian woman who lives in the town.
The play is based on a novella by Leo Tolstoy called the Devil. It was originally written in 1889 but Tolstoy altered the ending in 1909, a year before his death. It is one of his last major works and was published posthumously in 1911. It explores lust and sexual yearning in quite a complex manner. This version has been adapted by Peter Reid, or ‘kidnapped’ as he says himself in the programme notes. He has altered the setting to Ireland and changed a substantial number of details, even including an element of both endings that Tolstoy wrote.
It is performed as a one man production, with Eugene looking back at his life, telling the audience of his early years in London before focusing on his various affairs of the heart. The set is simple, with a table and chair at one side of the stage and a bed on the other. The setting is that of his various sexual trysts and works well as a location for the story.
Paul Kealyn is the lone performer in this production. It is an intense and demanding performance, as he brings the audience on a journey through Eugene’s life. His diction is impressive and his slow, steady delivery give you the feeling of a man of some breeding, despite being controlled by his emotions more than he would admit. It is a confessional tale, as Kealyn looks directly at the audience telling his sad story.
The alteration of the setting to Ireland has its draw backs and a number of the plot points do not make complete sense in a modern setting. The world has changed much since Tolstoy’s time and it possibly would have worked better in an earlier period of Ireland’s history. This is a small gripe, however, in what is a well written and interesting text. It is a substantial reworking but it keeps enough of the original to maintain Tolstoy’s intent. Due to the recent snow storms the opening night of this play was delayed. This may have helped as it allowed the actor to really get to grips with the part. The play runs until Saturday, March 10th and is well worthy of your time.
Performed by Paul Kealyn
AC Productions and The New Theatre