On Raftery’s Hill – Abbey Theatre – Review
27 April – 12 May 2018
Photos by Ros Kavanagh
The Rafterys are not a normal family. Their mother is long since dead and their father Red (Lorcan Cranitch) is a cruel man who has damaged his children. His only son Ded (Peter Coonan) sleeps in the cattle shed and won’t come into the house when Red is home. Dinah Raftery (Maeve Fitzgerald) is the only one who has any control over her father. She is approaching forty and has given up any chance of a life outside the house to look after those that dwell within. Red’s youngest daughter Sorrel (Zara Devlin) is the only one who has emerged relatively unscathed from her upbringing. She is set to marry a local man, Dara Mood (Kwaku Fortune), and leave the house and Red behind, but with the wedding fast approaching, tensions start to rise in the house.
This is a play by Marina Carr that was originally produced by Druid (along with the Royal Court Theatre) in the year 2,000. Now some eighteen years later director Caitríona McLaughlin has taken a new look at the work. The set by Joanna Parker is quite inventive with pools of water scattered around the stage that the actors send splashing in all directions. Waterproof footwear is essential! There is a functional kitchen centre stage with the microwave the only form of cooking done in the house. There is also a stairs and the impression of rooms above, along with an area beneath representing the cattle shed where Ded lives. Images are projected onto the back wall of the set, showing the actors or other abstract forms. It all helps create this vision of a dark and dank world.
Marie Mullen offers some light relief to the proceedings with her portrayal of Red’s senile mother Shalome Raftery, as she constantly tries to leave the house to go live with her Daddy, who is long since dead. Lorcan Cranitch is the centre piece of the production and he does well with the complex and malevolent character of Red. It would be easy to play him as a monster, but Cranitch captures something of rationale behind his actions, giving him unexpected depth. Meave Fitzgerald also gives a fine performance as Dinah, a woman who is unwilling or unable to see how badly damaged her life really is.
This play is not easy viewing, nor is it meant to be. This is a look behind the type of story you hear mentioned on the news headlines. One where lives have been ruined and you can only feel sorry for all involved. It is a complex work and an interesting vision of damaged lives and souls. So much of the story happened many years earlier and we only get to see its repercussions. We learn about the strange history of this family through a drip feed of information that explains how they could reach this spoiled and rotten state.
Ded Raftery: Peter Coonan
Red Raftery: Lorcan Cranitch
Sorrel Raftery: Zara Devlin
Dinah Raftery: Maeve Fitzgerald
Dara Mood: Kwaku Fortune
Isaac Dunn: Peter Gowen
Shalome Raftery: Marie Mullen
Writer: Marina Carr
Director: Caitríona McLaughlin
Set and Costume Design: Joanna Parker
Lighting Design: Paul Keogan
Composer and Sound Design: Carl Kennedy
Movement Director: Sue Mythen
Hair and Make-Up: Leonard Daly
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Casting: Maureen Hughes and Sarah Jones