‘Close to the Sun’ charts the story of Irishman Colin in Perth as he prepares for his wedding to Australian sweetheart, Sophie. The arrival of his estranged brother Rory, however, turns everything upside down and unearths many grim truths about the family’s past. Written by Philip Doherty and directed by Stephen Darcy, the pair deliver a stellar show with an ensemble cast that absolutely knocks it out of the park.
The show opens with three mine workers setting the scene for us in Perth. Their work attire along with the accents of a Dub, a Cavan man, and an Australian native allude to their own personalities, yet deliver Colin and Rory’s story from childhood right up to our meeting the protagonists. With the role of sort-of-narrator shared between them, an allusion to the mythological and ancient ways of storytelling is wonderfully achieved. Jed Murray plays the role of Colin, where his dominating stature is in contrast to his sweet and wholesome personality, while his chemistry with Mary Murray as his love, Sophie, is tender and passionate. Neill Fleming portrays the tortured Rory, a character who is said to be cursed he has had such a terrible life, unaided by his alcohol addiction. Fleming is captivating as he embodies the weight of the character’s deeds and misdeeds, yet still manages to deliver most of the funniest lines of the play with a wit only a truly weary character could manage.
The relationship between Colin and Rory is fiery and playful, delivered with exceptional charisma by Murray and Fleming as they examine the ups and downs of brotherhood. The ensemble cast is full of energy, making it very difficult not to identify with any one character at any one time, and their talent is reflected off each other as they convey the complicated family and story with ease.
Doherty’s writing is experienced and well-thought out, with incredible moments in the dialogue that would spur discussion lasting hours over a pint – comparing the treatment of Aborigines with Travellers, alcohol with hard drugs, sex before marriage, and where home truly is or should be for someone. All of these conversations are layered with casual humour and no real rush to find the answer, rendering the piece legitimately thought-provoking as well as hugely entertaining. Ciara Murnane’s set is beautiful and, coupled with Caít Corkery’s wonderfully unique costume design for each character, it was extraordinary how the audience was transported to sunny Australia. Sarah McColgan’s lighting design was equally complementing, with it truly feeling like a white-hot sun was present.
‘Close to the Sun’ is a standout piece at this year’s Fringe Festival. It is exemplary in the execution of a contemporary dramatic play and Doherty is an exceptional character creator. Though a little long (coming close to two hours without an interval), I didn’t even notice the time until after I had left the theatre. The Corps Ensemble are natural professionals and undoubtedly ones to watch. Just go see this.
Close to the Sun runs until September 17th in Smock Alley Theatre.
by Joanna Kelly