Mustn’t Forget High Noon, Christine, Twinkletoes – Abbey Theatre (Peacock) – Review
Dates: 18 February – 12 March on the Peacock stage
Three Monologues by Jennifer Johnston
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval.
Photos by Ros Kavanagh
At the start of the production, we meet Billy (Charlie Bonner). He seems a generally decent guy, good-humoured and quite likeable. He has escaped his house and is at his allotment having a sneaky cigarette. He tells the audience about his childhood, his love of westerns and the various actors who saved the day; Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. He talks of his wife Christine and how they fell in love. It’s an average story from many perspectives, but slowly he lets slip various aspects of his background. He talks of Taigs and marching on July 12th. Billy is an Orangeman and is prepared to fight for the land his family have inhabited for two hundred years.
As the title of the play suggests, this is not one but three different short plays. Each piece is a monologue and has a different actor (Charlie Bonner, Aoibhéann McCann and Ali White) and director (Gea Gojak, Claire O’Reilly and Laura Sheeran). Maree Kearns is billed as the Lead Artist and Designer, linking the three separate works together. The monologues tell the story of three individuals who have each suffered during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Along with Billy, there is his wife Christine (Ali White) and Karen (Aoibhéann McCann), a young woman on the other side of the religious divide.
Jennifer Johnston is an Irish novelist and playwright that was born in Dublin in 1930. She is the daughter of actress/ director Shelah Richards and playwright Denis Johnston. Jennifer was brought up as a member of the Church of Ireland and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. These three monologues were first published as a collection in 1995 by Lagan Press. It was a very different time in Northern Ireland’s history, with the Good Friday Agreement signed three years later in 1998. While talks of shootings and punishment beatings have largely disappeared from the headlines in the North, it is important to remember what happened in our recent past. With works such as this and Abomination: A DUP Opera (From March 24th), the Abbey is exploring the political landscape in Northern Ireland.
The three actors play an important role in adding a human face to the cold facts and figures. Charlie Bonner adds warmth and humour to a man with hard-line political views. Ali White (Christine) shows a woman dealing with loss and trying to start her life again in middle age. Aoibhéann McCann (as Karen) is a woman who has had her youth stolen from her, struggling with her daughter and husband at a time she’d rather be having fun. This production is over 2 hours long and it does demand your patience and concentration, but in return, it offers three unique perspectives on life in the North during the troubles. While the subject matter at times is quite dark, there is humour and wit in all three of these cleverly developed characters.
Billy: Charlie Bonner
Karen: Aoibhéann McCann
Christine: Ali White
Writer: Jennifer Johnston
Lead Artist and Designer: Maree Kearns
Resident Director: Gea Gojak
Resident Director: Claire O’Reilly
Resident Director: Laura Sheeran
Sound Design: Carl Kennedy
Lighting Design: Eamon Fox
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Casting Director: Sarah Jones