One Good Turn – Abbey Theatre – Review
21 June – 10 July 2021
One Good Turn by Una McKevitt – In-person: 21 – 26 June
Photos by Ross Kavanagh
Available on demand until July 10th.
In a world where live streams have become the norm, this play had 6 live performances between the 21st and the 26th of June. For those wondering about the logistics of a live performance during this stage of the pandemic, the audience was much reduced to allow for social distancing. There was no one in the row behind or in front of me, and the nearest person was five seats over. You were greeted by a member of the Abbey staff at the entrance to the theatre and another guided you to your seat. They also advised the audience members to remain in their seats at the end of the performance until a member of the staff escorted you out. The audience also wore masks throughout the performance. It did feel safe and hopefully we will see audiences return in larger numbers in the not too distant future. Now back to the play!
This is a new work by Una McKevitt commissioned by the Abbey. The play explores the family dynamics of a household dealing with the serious illness of their father who has emphysema. If all this sounds quite intense, the play is actually light-hearted and humorous in nature! During the first act of the play, the father is an unseen presence. He’s upstairs in bed and we meet the rest of his family. During the second act, he takes his place on the sofa to watch his shows and becomes the centre point of the piece.
The matriarch of the family is Brenda, played by Catherine Byrne. She holds the family together and is the main carer for Frank (Bosco Hogan). The couple have two grown-up daughters. The first is Fiona (Liz FitzGibbon), who has recently given up her job and returned to live at home. She is struggling to find her place in the world and wants a job to give her a purpose in life. Her sister Aoife (Aoibhéann McCann) has returned home from London for the weekend without her boyfriend Paul. The couple were meant to be going to a wedding in Dublin, but he didn’t travel with her as they have broken up. She is now looking for someone to escort her to the wedding while causing some chaos around the house. The rest of the cast is filled out by their neighbour Ciaran (Shane O’Reilly) and Helen played by Pom Boyd.
According to the song ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’. This play focuses on the smaller issues, giving an insight into how the family interacts. They have been together for many years and know how to push each other’s buttons. Much of the action of the play happens off stage, with deaths and weddings taking place elsewhere, while we get to see those left behind make tea and try to find the remote control! It’s a subtle piece that focuses on what makes a family function, like a wildlife documentary set somewhere in suburban Dublin. The play lacks a denouement or something to bring the various strands together but it does give an interesting slice of life. In the capable hands of director Emma Jordan, this slow burner tries to expose what makes an Irish family tick.
Helen: Pom Boyd
Brenda: Catherine Byrne
Fiona: Liz FitzGibbon
Frank: Bosco Hogan
Aoife: Aoibhéann McCann
Ciaran: Shane O’Reilly
Writer: Una McKevitt
Director: Emma Jordan
Set Design: Colin Richmond
Costume Design: Enda Kenny
Lighting Design: Sarah-Jane Shiels
Sound Design: Carl Kennedy
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Dramaturg: Louise Stephens
Video Director: Shane Hogan (Areaman)