In Billy Roche’s long awaited new play, we visit a provincial library named Avalon. The library’s tenure in the town is coming to an end and it appears that some of its regulars are finding it hard to leave at all. Librarians Ellen (Lesley McGuire) and Debbie (Jane McGrath) reflect about their readers and inhabitants of the space, John-Joe (Lalor Roddy) and Aidan (Peter Gowen) with an air of both frustration and subtle admiration.
The library closing marks the beginning of a new journey for some characters and an ending for others. There is a position of chief librarian in another vicinity that Ellen seems the obvious choice for as she has dedicated her life to the job but Debbie, who has just completed her masters, is tempted to put her hat in the ring also but does not disclose this to Ellen.
The arrival of an old friend and neighbour, Lance Foley (Geoff Minogue) sets the drama in motion as he charms many including Ellen. Their eventual tryst allows Ellen’s character to embark on a part of life she hasn’t approached before.
The desires and actions of the characters become unclear at times and it is never really established what story or character we are listening to until the very end. There is a plethora of scene changes that initiate long transitions that features a wonderful composition by Carl Kennedy but they linger a little too long which results in a dip in the energy at times.
Directed by Andrew Flynn, the first act evolves at a very slow pace but is justified by Roche’s rich dialogue. There are some really tender and moving moments between John-Joe (Roddy) and Ellen (McGuire) particularly in the second act that makes a bittersweet impression on the audience.
Ciaran Bagnall’s set design and lighting presents a beautiful space that would torment any book lover at the thought of it being used for anything other than a library.
Overall, Roche’s new play is long overdue and presents a touching reflection on repressed desires and ambition.
This play is presented by The Civic Theatre in Tallaght in association with Dublin Theatre Festival until October 5th.
Review by Chloe Murphy