Directed by Chris Baldock, Shining City is a development of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s use of the monologue in his earlier plays. In the first of the five scenes that make up this play Ian, a Dublin priest-turned-therapist (Jonathan Dyer) provides a listener for the monologue of John (Ben Grant), a recently widowed man who is disturbed by his wife’s ghost. John is guilt ridden and tormented by the lack of communication in their childless marriage. His tortuous unburdening of his story is fractured, replete with pauses and broken phrases and you knows. It is a daunting marathon for the actor and Grant is not only fluent in this incoherent speech, but riveting in his emotional delivery.
The next of the four scenes takes us into the therapist’s relationship with his girlfriend Neasa (Corinne Davis) and we are privy to his own communication breakdown. The parallels with John’s problems are clear, but the switching of our attention from John to Ian drains the dramatic tension that has been built up in the opening scene. Davis conveys anger and frustration in her more coherent dialogue, but is less comfortable with the truncated sentences that are designed to convey her confusion.
Dyer plays the awkward, passive, monosyllabic character of Ian with a reserved power, although there is a jarring in his switch from therapist to reluctant partner in scene two. It is a relief to see him back in the therapist’s chair for the extended session with his client in the long third scene. Dyer plays the passive listener perfectly, attentive and conciliatory. The undertones of humour surface in the interplay of these two actors and could have been made more of in the other scenes, relieving the rather laboured themes of connection and isolation.
The fourth scene follows Ian’s unraveling personal life into what seems a slightly gratuitous homosexual encounter that adds little to the already dense psychological texture of the play. Dave Kenyon as Laurence shows a little too much sympathy for Ian, who is for him just another meal ticket and another frustrated married man.
A brief final scene shows Ian and John moving on with their lives. All seems well until the final twist, which is chilling and well executed, but seems to have little point. We are left confused, frustrated, abandoned, like the characters in the play. Maybe that is the point.
Hoy Polloy presents
by Conor McPherson
Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre | Cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rds, Brunswick
Friday, 1 June to Saturday, 16 June 2007
Tues – Sat @ 8.15pm; Sundays @ 5.00pm
$30 Adult, $20 Concession/Groups 10+, $18 Tuesdays