Twenty Minutes From Nowhere – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review
by Pat Viale
November 01 – 20, 2021 – Time: 1pm (doors open 12.40)
Twenty Minutes From Nowhere by Chris Kelly, starring Eoin O’Sullivan, directed by Martha Fitzgerald
From the moment Eoin O’Sullivan steps onto the straw-strewn stage in Bewley’s Café Theatre’s production of Twenty Minutes From Nowhere and stares at the night sky, we can sense the almost tangible loneliness of a trapped, frustrated existence, a scenario that is deep-rooted in Irish theatre and literature, through Friel and Murphy to Kavanagh.
On the isolated family farm, twenty minutes from the nearest one-street village, with its church, pub and one shop, the thirty-four-year-old is facing a critical decision, free at least nominally, now that both parents are dead. He gazes at the stars but finds no poetry or magic in their glimmer, only a reflection of the remoteness of his location and the cold emptiness of his emotional life. An outsider at school, he remembers his disastrous first kiss with a girl whose face felt “too soft” and when he goes on to tell us of his confused adolescent longing for the blond Latvian farmworker his father employed, we realise that he is gay and that his physical isolation is intensified by the lack of any meaningful relationship in his life.
Working alongside his father all day, he rarely had the chance to leave the farm while the village pub offered only the company of old men, whose sole topic of conversation is the weather forecast, and a younger crowd of “lads” to whom he cannot relate. As a young man, encouraged by his parents to “do his Leaving”, there seemed the possibility of a different kind of future but, in reality, as the only son of farming parents, he knew he was never going to be able to leave the farm.
O’Sullivan’s nuanced performance captures both the frustration and the tenacity of someone caught between the conflicting needs of a young man for a meaningful relationship and a feeling of obligation to support his parents. In the world of social media and dating apps, he longs to find someone who will sit on the couch with him and watch mindless tv programmes just as his parents had done. However, the cyber world doesn’t suit everyone – or every location.
Bewley’s Café Theatre’s long-awaited return to on-stage performances has started with a great lift-off. By turn fragile, resilient and determined, O’Sullivan’s performance captivates the audience. Chris Kelly writes with a totally authentic voice and captures, without melodrama or sentimentality, the situation of many LGBTQ people living in isolation who, even today, feel that there is little hope of a fulfilled future. Kelly and co-director Martha Fitzgerald have mined the core of the play in this first-class production.
The play continues in the Bewley’s Café Theatre until November 20th at 1pm and should not be missed. It lasts about 45 minutes.