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Days of Wine and Roses review at Lyric Belfast

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It takes a bold writer not only to tackle a stage adaptation of JP Miller’s screenplay, but to wrench it out of its familiar San Francisco setting and set it firmly in the context of the Irish in London. But Owen McCafferty is a bold writer and the version of the story he chooses to tell is one he clearly knows extremely well. The way he tells it, as a cinematic yet intimate double hander, it feels like a classic Belfast story. Premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2006, there is a palpable sense of homecoming about Roy Heayberd’s skilfully restrained but heartbreakingly authentic production, which sees two truthfully realised performances from McElherron and Halligan.

McCafferty has an uncanny knack for creating the small moment, the crucial beat that will resound with deafening force as the storyline unfolds. Mona and Donal meet and converse over their suitcases at Belfast Airport. He is a chirpy bookie’s clerk, she a buttoned-up civil servant. They are in possession of one-way tickets out of Belfast and bound for London, perceived as the place to be at the onset of the swinging sixties. He persuades her to take her first drink, she kisses him in return – two tiny moments before the inevitable unfolds relentlessly over an uninterrupted 105 minutes. The audience is transfixed by the plight of this once optimistic young couple, who allow their promising lives to be destroyed by a squalid downward spiral of obsessive social drinking and alcoholism. There is the occasional tantalising glimpse of something brighter and better, but this affectingly bleak production takes its leave with scant cause for hope.

Production Information

Lyric, Belfast, April 27 to May 26

Author
Owen McCafferty
Director
Roy Heayberd
Cast
Fergal McElherron, Gemma Mae Halligan
Running time
1hr 45mins

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