Rarely have I ever experienced anything in the theatre comparable to Druid’s production of A Whistle in the Dark. There is great theatre that is stylized and surreal, or postmodern and self-conscious, or even melodramatic. Whistle is a drama that sets the heart racing, that makes the palms sweat, that holds the breath to release it only in a gasp. Tom Murphy’s writing is muscular and menacing and holds you in a crushing embrace; this is theatre that will not let you go.
This is a play about impotent masculinity in all its forms: in society, in the family, in physical and mental and moral strength. In the Carneys, Murphy has encapsulated all the crises that a generation of men can suffer. Irish immigrants in Coventry, the Carney men struggle to fit in, to make a living, to make their name – fighting against the nameless ‘they’ on foreign soil. And these struggles coalesce into a physical violence that is as inevitable as a spring unwinding.
The cast is outstanding, inhabiting their characters with an electric physicality. In Dada, played with a frightening conviction by Niall Buggy, there is the raging artifice of power and of a bitter and savage disappointment. “I tried… I tried..” he mouths tremblingly as the light dies on the stage, pitiable at the last as his powerlessness is revealed.
This is frightening beast of a production. Murphy’s writing is matched by the skill of Garry Hynes’ direction – a formidable pairing indeed. This is theatre that is truly visceral, charged with a electricity that crackles off the stage. A Whistle in the Dark is the play of a generation – a generation of men that has since been lost, but should never be forgotten.