Review: Misterman at The Blackbox Theatre

Rumour has it Enda Walsh wrote this play for Cillian Murphy and that feels like the essence of Misterman. It absolutely plays like it was written for the broad acting style of the talented actor. The location was unique and it payed off with Murphy making full use of the space in The Blackbox Theatre, although the seats were a tight squeeze.

It’s important to set the scene of the Blackbox. It’s a warehouse type space with the stage on the same level as the front row of seating. There are store front shutters on two of the walls and warehouse lighting, massive pipes, all the inner working of a typical warehouse, all painted black. The seats run the width of the space, as does the stage area. In the middle there is a step up to an armchair with small side table to the left and a bigger table with a single chair to the right, surrounded¬†by four sets of double concrete pillars. On top of the pillars is a platform with another table and chair and a metal staircase leading up. To the right is what looks like a grave, decorated with cans of Fanta arranged in the shape of crosses. To the left is a battered kitchen table and chair and some other battered home type props, a small area for cooking and such things. Most importantly there are five (maybe six) old reel-to-reel tape recorders, one in each area.

Cillian Murphy plays Thomas Magill, a troubled young man who plays the same day over and over in his head, and on the tape recorders. The opening scene, Thomas¬†enters, his head covered with a hood closed tightly with a rope, breathing heavily and looking frantic. He sprints up and down the stage in a mix of rage, fear and total panic. The stage is barely lit. His opening monologue is given through the use of an intercom in at the edge of the stage area with just a spot light to show the protagonist. He speaks of religion and damnation. He questions what is the use of life without religion. Walsh’s play speaks bravely about the involvement of religion in Irish life, and the necessity of religion in general. Murphy’s character is the self appointed religious presence in the village of Innisfree, making matter-of-fact notes of various people and their sins; “Mrs So-and-So: Indecent, Mr. So-and-So: Fowl etc”.

Misterman is darkly funny. Thomas converses with his mother, his love interest Edel and others through recordings, perfectly timed by a well organised production crew. Murphy revealing his skills and talent as he enacts a scene after scene between himself, his “Mammy” and the various village folk he meets; one typical Irish biddy, Mrs Cleary, who’s poor hands are “destroyed from the Harpic” had the audience in fits. He slides effortlessly between the various accents from Dublin to Donegal to the midlands Irish country Mammy, each as entertaining and accurate as the last.

The closing scene, without ruining it, is dark and bitter. Like McCabe’s Butcher Boy, Walsh’s Misterman holds disdain for Catholic Ireland by knitting together righteousness and right in a web of insecure, frantic delirium.

Trish Keenan.

Misterman plays as part of the Galway Arts Festival 2011 and runs until 24th July.

There are 2 comments

  1. meg

    Bella – it’s really an amazing opportunity to see a talented actor up close and personal. Misterman is deeply dark and incredibly enthralling, I would love to see it in NY myself!

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