Nancy Harris’ The Beacon trades on stereotypes. Beiv (Jane Brennan) is a smock-wearing female artist who’s been through her sculptures-of-tampons stage, opened and shut an all-female commune, and rejected the traditional maternal role in favour of creating art.
Her son, Colm (Marty Rea) is a software buff who’s relocated Stateside and returns to the remote island home ill-dressed for the weather and ill-tempered towards his mother. He brings with him his new wife Bonnie (Rae Gray), a loud and spiritually-lost American given to interpreting Beiv’s work as a series of clichéd feminist references: menstrual blood, foetuses and vulvas.
To start with, Harris’ play seems like the quintessential ‘well-made play’. Garry Hynes’ production for Druid is glossy, self-contained and well performed by all. Early on, there are moments of appreciable humour, while Francis O’Connor’s set is a highly attractive rendering of the artist’s studio-slash-apartment with its expansive views across the beach.
But about halfway through it loses its way. The basic ‘thriller’ aspect of the plot is uninvolving, crucial aspects of the story lack believability and the romantic connections underpinning the narrative are conveyed using clunky dialogue. Instead of introducing tenderness, the relationships feel trite.
While on the surface The Beacon is adept in several ways, it’s a real disappointment, especially coming from the usually superb Druid, the play let down by its tensionless narrative and a boorish script.