Conditioning is the theme prevalent throughout Tom Murphy’s dark drama about bigotry and hatred bred within one Irish family by a father soured by bitterness. It’s a sad indictment of our society that these issues are still relevant today and Murphy’s hard-hitting work continues to have impact 45 years after it was written.
Initially rejected by the Abbey Theatre for portraying the Irish in a negative light, it became a West End hit after its premiere at Stratford East, which caused controversy because of the violence involved.
The violence is still intrinsic in Jacob Murray’s energy-charged production, which fairly bristles with that underlying threat throughout and is electrifying from start to finish.
The play is set in Coventry in the sixties, in the Carney home of Michael, played with controlled strength by Patrick O’Kane, and his wife Betty (Esther Hall).
The catalyst to the drama is the arrival of domineering Dada, with a charismatic performance from Gary Whelan as the bully of the family who has reared his sons - including the youngest Des (Kieran Gough) - to continue his verbal prejudice and physical abuse both outside and within the family unit.
Murray’s casting is impeccable, with remarkable performances from Damien O’Hare as Harry, Frank Laverty as Hugo, Sean Kearns as Iggy and Fergal McElhorron as Mush.
This powerful production reminds us of the strength of Murphy’s work but also establishes Jacob Murray in the forefront of our young directors.