Come On Home – Peacock Stage (Abbey) – Review
13 July – 4 August 2018
Michael (Billy Carter) has returned home for the first time in twenty years. He left the small country town he grew up in under something of a cloud. He had an argument with his father, where he was told he wasn’t wanted there any more. His father could not accept his sexuality and told him not to darken his door again! Michael took his father at his word and stayed away. Now with the news that his mother has died, he has decided to come home for the funeral and to see his two brothers Ray (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and Brian (Declan Conlon). His father is long since dead but his presence still looms in the house. The town is filled with memories for Michael and not all of them are good. He will also be reunited with Father Aidan Cleary (Seán O’Callaghan), the local priest, a man with whom he has much unfinished business.
This is a new play written by Phillip McMahon of Thisispopbaby, who are known for their brash and fun productions. The most striking thing about this production is how far removed this is from their other work. While it does have a gay theme, it is much more traditional in structure, with the play focusing on the relationships between the brothers.
The set by Colin Richmond is hugely impressive. As soon as you enter the theatre and see the room with the coffin lurking in the background, it fills you with a sense of dread. The space is the front room of a small country house, where the wallpaper hasn’t been changed in a generation. The sacred heart still hangs on the wall and daddy’s armchair sits in the corner, its owner long since departed. All the action takes place in this one space, as the family wait for the funeral.
The cast are impressive but there are some unusual choices in the casting. There is a vast physical difference between the brothers, with Declan Conlon towering over the other two like a cuckoo in the nest. There are strong performances from all three brothers, with Ian Lloyd Anderson particularly catching the eye as the warm and decent youngest son Ray. Declan Conlon has the difficult part as the deeply damaged Brian. He is all fury and physicality but his rage is explained later in the piece. Billy Carter plays the fish out of water Michael, a much changed man returning to his home ground. Kathy Rose O’Brien does well with the part of Aoife, Ray’s girlfriend. One of the most touching scenes is a simple song she performs which creates a moment of calm amongst the storm. Aislín McGuckin plays Martina, Brian’s wife, who is a wild and menacing spirit, particularly in the first act.
The storyline captures many of the social issues that affect small towns in Ireland. Possibly too many and it may have been better served by focusing on a smaller number. This may seem a little harsh for what is a very enjoyable and rewarding new work. The language used is colourful and it is not the easiest watch, with some of the themes discussed making for difficult viewing. McMahon has an impressive gift with humour but there are moments that are equally as chilling. It is a play that never shies away from the bigger issues, instead taking them head on.
Ray: Ian Lloyd Anderson
Michael: Billy Carter
Brian: Declan Conlon
Aoife: Kathy Rose O’Brien
Father Aidan Cleary: Seán O’Callaghan
Martina: Aislín McGuckin
Father Seamus: Des Nealon
Written by: Phillip McMahon
Directed by: Rachel O’Riordan
Set & Costume Design: Colin Richmond
Lighting Design: Kevin Treacy
Composition & Sound Design: Conor Mitchell
Hair & Make Up: Val Sherlock
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Fight Director: Ciarán O’Grady
Casting: Amy Rowan
Producer: Jen Coppinger
Production Manager: Andy Keogh
Stage Manager: Leo McKenna
Assistant Stage Manager: Aidan Doheny
Costume Supervisor: Orla Long