JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE QUIET LAND at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 12.9.15.
4 stars ****
WHEN DAVID MACLENNAN launched A Play, A Pie, And A Pint, 11 years ago, the first international connection he struck up was with Bewlay’s Cafe Theatre in Dublin; and now here, in Malachy McKenna’s The Quiet Land, is the latest fruit of that relationship, a show about as far from the cutting-edge of 21st century Irish theatre as it could possibly be, and yet full of a deep seductive charm, and a quiet sense of mourning for lost times.
So as the play opens, we see one of the classic scenes of Irish drama; a field, a broken gate, an old man in a battered, mossy hat, a faint trill of traditional pipe-music in the distance. The man is Nashee, an old farmer; but as soon as he’s joined by his equally ancient friend and neighbour Eamonn, it becomes clear that this is a very contemporary tale of what happens to the land, and the people who used to farm it, in an age when only cash matters.
Eamonn is just back from a month in hospital after being beaten up by a gang of burglars, a wonderful, spirited old man determined to get his mobility back and battle on; but Nashee, left alone on the hill, has lost his nerve, and decided to give up the fight. The scenario is simple enough, and Nashee’s reticence about what’s going on a little overplayed. But Des Keoch and Derry Power deliver a glorious, perfectly-pitched pair of performances in a show seems to promise little, but finally deliver a picture of the world we live in that is sharp, teling, surprisingly complete, and very troubling indeed.
Oran Mor, Glasgow, final performance today.