In the almost two hours this tale takes to unfold it’s possible to dwell uncomfortably on the inconsistencies in Conor McPherson’s tale of Ian, a former Catholic priest able to become a therapist in a remarkably short time, perhaps leading to his inability to resolve the ghost of his own past whilst allowing his first patient, John, to resolve his own through rambling soliloquies.
Robert Calvert (John) in Shining City at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick Photo: Keith Pattison
It’s obvious by the conclusion that the two men still follow a parallel path. John is haunted by the unexpected death of his wife and Ian by loss of his faith and his inability to find something to replace it.
Is this a tale of the supernatural? I suspect all who see this vibrant production, directed by Zoe Waterman, will come to a different conclusion.
Patrick Bridgman gives a sensitive performance of a man unsettled in his new secular life, unable to show compassion to the girlfriend, Neassa, he’s impregnated, a woman who financed his new existence.
As Neassa, Sarah Groarke is understandably overwrought but perhaps a touch overplayed to keep our sympathy, contrasting with the delicate underplaying of the male prostitute, Laurence, by Adam O’Brian as Ian experiments with his sexuality.
Playing the pivotal role of John is Robert Calvert in a powerful performance of a man confronting the guilt of a survivor. This is not an easy play to watch. Ultimately rewarding, it would be more effective if pruned to 90 minutes - and if the playwright were to have used his considerable talents to avoid the lazy over-use of one particular profanity.