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The Blue Boy of Glenmore review at Playhouse Theatre, Derry-Londonderry – ‘enthralling’

The Blue Boy of Glenmore at Playhouse Theatre, Derry-Londonderry
The Blue Boy of Glenmore at Playhouse Theatre, Derry-Londonderry

Joe Brennan's new play for Brassneck Theatre ambitiously mixes tones and genres. It's darkly funny and humane piece, both romantic and ultimately tragic.

Farmer Jemmy John is the blue boy of the title. But his younger sister Colleen is the play's main focus. Longing to be more than just a "secretary" and a "skivvy" to her sibling, she embarks on a secret courtship with Gerard McCabe's fun-loving Paudie Rua, a mechanic who appears as trapped in his own blissful bubble as Colleen is oppressed. Their contrasting performances complement one another.

The plot twists in unexpected ways in the second act of Tony Devlin’s astonishingly intense production – everything ascends a level.

Punctuated by haunting bursts of orchestration from Donal O'Connor, the production shifts smoothly from light-heartedness to a place of mistrust, bitterness, and betrayal.

The Blue Boy of Glenmore is an enthralling, challenging piece and the writing demands strong performances from its cast. Both Christine Clare, as Colleen, and Gerard McCabe as Paudie Rua, deliver the goods. Clare, in particular, is superb.

They’re strongly supported, both by James Doran, as Jemmy John, and Marty Maguire, who plays the amusingly magnanimous as greengrocer Stephen.

Ciaran Bagnall's rusty-looking set evokes a late 1970s Irish farmhouse – the site of Colleen’s stifled dreams.

 

Verdict
A romantic black comedy boasting a striking central performance
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