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Ballyturk review at Tron Theatre, Glasgow – ‘a powerful, poignant staging’

Grant O'Rourke and Simon Donaldson in Ballyturk at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: John Johnston

In bringing Enda Walsh’s high-profile 2014 piece of Irish absurdist drama to the Tron stage, artistic director Andy Arnold has lent the appropriate weight to a play which made an international splash when it was first staged in Galway.

Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke star as One and Two – parts taken by Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi in the original  – the denizens of a grotty, windowless apartment. Their roles are finely-tuned, creatures of habit whose actions sync up in perfect choreographed harmony as they help one another dance into their clothing to a soundtrack of lively 1980s pop classics.

Yet neither of them seems to quite know why they’re here, other than that they find a strange kind of comfort together in this room. When the wall splits (an impressive set-piece from designer Michael Taylor) and Wendy Seager’s groomed, businesslike Three enters, the comfort of the duo’s life is disrupted by the knowledge that they might be able to leave this home-cum-prison.

Like Joyce or Beckett, the logic of the play’s situation is disturbed, giving it a dream-like, unreal quality. Yet in Donaldson and O’Rourke’s performances there is warmth and great clowning, double-act humour; the latter makes his entry from a wardrobe wearing nothing but his pants, the first of many striking vignettes of visual comedy.

There is a pall of darkness too, however, especially in Seager’s sinister, David Lynchian presence, a corporate force of nature who croons while you go. The final scene, in which a young child, one of four actors taking the part, bursts into the space, creates a sense of renewal – the implied life-and-death metaphor seems to be complete.

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A powerful, poignant staging of Enda Walsh’s absurdist drama