The Harvest – New Theatre – Review by Paddy McGovern
5th March – 16th March @ 7.30
The New Theatre & WitchWork Theatre Company’s production of Jane McCarthy’s play, The Harvest, is another in the line of highly promising, indeed accomplished, work by the next wave of Irish writers and theatre makers. Added to the evident talent on stage and in the writing is the unnerving timeliness of a central character, a manipulative and controlling man, on the surface a model of community and family devotion but all of this masking a dark secret of deeds done and capable of more to cover them from public discovery. McCarthy’s deft plotting and strong characterisation make for a thoroughly rewarding evening’s theatre.
Even as the play starts, Dylan Tonge Jones’s sound design signals that something wicked this way comes. We should not take the happy-family and cosy coupledom of the photographs at face value. Or perhaps we should; there is something of a shrine about them, lit as they are from above in a recess. The unease and apprehension generated by the music ensure that we never take a happy ending for granted. It is just as well that we don’t…
Marcus Lamb in every fibre of his performance as Malcolm lives up –or rather down – to his stepson’s description of a fucking asshole and his adversary, Shane’s, “sanctimonious hypocrite”. He is tense and watchful, oozing a superficial charm but if crossed the menacing, cowardly bully surfaces.
Melissa Nolan is his wife Charlotte, struggling to stay above the waterline as an addict in recovery. What has tipped her into relying on the props of drugs and alcohol is gradually explained and Nolan is totally convincing as her background is revealed. However, while nailing the emotional rollercoaster as she lurches from hope and confidence to regret, apprehension and fear, she risks becoming inaudible. It is otherwise a very fine performance.
As their son, Evan, O’Leary is a convincing schoolboy, his dreams and aspirations finding an outlet in writing what may, he hopes, become a book. He swings between silent frustration and the occasional verbal outburst as he deals with a traumatic experience in the past, though we sense that in the end he will pull through.
John Morton’s Shane is a shambling, kind-hearted ‘decent skin’, despite his involvement in a crime that led to imprisonment. Foley rises impressively to the challenge of a demanding role, hitting the right notes, vocally and emotionally throughout.
Matthew Ralli directs a production that suffers only by yielding to the economic necessity to take an interval, dissipating the build-up of tension and weakening the impetus of this thriller.
Performances continue at 7.30 nightly until March 16th, with a matinee performance on Saturday, 9th, at 2.30 pm.
Director: Matthew Ralli
Cast: Marcus Lamb
Dramaturg: Pamela McQueen
Set Design: Lisa Krugel
Lighting Design: John Crudden
Sound Design: Dylan Tonge Jones
Graphic Design: Leanne Willars
Poster image: Alan Craig