Where The Willow Meets The Ash – Viking Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Dates – April 15 – 27, 2019
As the title implies, this is a play that has at its background cricket and hurling. A frustrated, domestically incompetent, bachelor farmer Bobby (Malachy McKenna) encounters his new English neighbour Henry (Michael James Ford), the source of whose wealth is difficult to discern. Two different cultures come into direct contact! Henry is keen to introduce cricket into the local sporting activities and has been recruiting local hurlers to become involved. Bobby is from a hurling background and knows his way around a hurl. His land lies beside Nayshee’s acres which was the site of the old hurling pitch.
McKenna, clad in his underpants, does a fine job in setting the scene in the solitary chaos of Bobby’s home which has not been helped by a recent flood resulting in building works taking place out of sight. Through an odd telephone call he manages with considerable wit to fill the audience in on the current state of play with Henry who duly arrives dressed in black and yellow lycra cycling gear, helmet and clickety cleats on his feet. Henry also mentions he has some interest in the beautiful Polish barmaid in the local pub who Bobby has already told us is of interest to him. In their conversation potential members of the nascent cricket team are discussed which includes a Dr. Khan, a medical consultant but also a spin bowler from the Indian sub-continent.
A new character arrives in the form of Eamon (Tom Lawlor) a belligerent, old farmer who apparently was decent to Bobby when he suffered a humiliation earlier in his life although given his aggressive behaviour it is hard to credit. Gradually, the play seems to lose impetus and the one story line that gains traction is the ownership of Nayshee’s acres. Sadly, the racial diversity of the cricket team or the role of Polish Sophia gradually disappear from view.
Andrew Murray’s set is suitably cluttered with bits and pieces of junk typical of a bachelor who has not a clue how to housekeep. It enabled McKenna at the beginning to display his considerable comic talents which the audience loved. The disappointment of the play was having raised the prospect of racial diversity in modern rural Ireland was the failure to develop subsequently the theme. It was an opportunity missed. That said that was not a concern of the audience on opening night who loved the play and applauded enthusiastically.
Written by Malachy Mc Kenna
Performed by Tom Lawlor, Michael James Ford, Malachy Mc Kenna.
Directed by Bairbre Ní Chaoimh.