Port Authority – Smock Alley – Review by Paddy McGovern
Decadent Theatre Company
4 – 9 Mar 2019 | 7:30pm | 2:30pm on Sat 9th | Main Space
Conor McPherson’s play, Port Authority, is a quiet-spoken but unflinching critique of Irish men, their ways, their waywardness and the often empty lives they inflict on themselves by their failure to communicate with those they should – and could – trust most. The play is suffused with a sense of what might have been, of the roads not taken by each of the three characters. McPherson’s choice of one young, one middle-aged and one older man invites us to infer that his three characters are representative of Irish men in general.
Garret Keogh’s Joe tells us that even in middle age he was “not mature”, not that we need to be told. The central incident involving a photograph of someone he “never really knew” seems almost like a theatrical metaphor for striving after unreachable illusions of perfection rather than dealing with the real relationships that offer themselves. It is a beautifully realised portrayal of a brittle man, now living in a retirement home run by nuns as he ruminates over a life that went largely unlived.
Patrick Ryan’s Dermot has everything he needs to live a happy, fulfilled life, if only he could be made to realise it. Like many at the peak of so-called boomtime Ireland, he was dazzled by rubbing shoulders with top politicians and rock people – and, oh yes, by his boss’s wife’s “tits”. Out of his depth socially, having failed to get into the good Jesuit school to which his mother aspired, he flails and flounders and is quickly back where he started – only worse. Ryan’s strutting, callow braggart is a superb characterisation, remaining focused and unfazed even when a mobile phone rang out repeatedly a few feet away (the first of two separate ones).
Jarlath Tivnan is Kevin, wide-eyed and almost gormless at times, newly moved out of home, striking out towards an independent, adult life. However, relating stories of hilarious and downright manic episodes of his social set cannot mask his empty, frustrated existence. Tivnan plays Kevin as the eternal onlooker rather than participant, hovering on the brink of asking his overwhelming question, only to retreat and take cover in the safety of silence. As he says about key moments in developing relationships, sometimes “it is there, only trust it… and that’s it”. However, he cannot “trust it” or himself – so nothing happens.
Decadent theatre’s production is directed by Andrew Flynn. Like the best of managers and referees, good directors give the impression that it is all down to the players. Flynn has moulded a beautifully paced, unfussy, fluid production that serves McPherson’s play perfectly.