I feel somewhat privileged to have seen this show ... "And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here" ... oh yes, this was that big a deal ;-)
Presented by Gene David Kirk (in particularly sparkling attire I might add) and directed by Trevor Nunn, this Beckett radio play has not been seen on stage before and quite correctly it is presented here as a radio play, enacted, script-in-hand, as it would have been when originally broadcast before a studio audience back in 1957. That is not to say that this is a static production. The characters are costumed and "enact" their roles with complete commitment creating an engaging, and ultimately enthralling, evening.
The play itself is quite a piece of Beckett; at times funny, at times heart breakingly sad, we are left to pick up the pieces of the story from hints and attitudes dropped inot the conversations and relationships of the 9 characters on stage (and a few off). A sad, slow, tale of broken hearts and sad lives - tragic deaths and long, empty hours of regret.
Eileen Atkins excels as the central character of Mrs Rooney, making her long, slow way to the station to meet her husband. Continuously at odds with the world and, it would seem, her own memories, she rails against the people she meet who, almost despite themselves, seek to help her on her way. Eileen Atkins' performance essentially carries the whole play and is a real masterclass. Perfectly delightful. The rural road appears clogged with interesting encounters; Christy (Ruairi Conaghan) and his horse, Mr Tyler (Frank Grimes) and his bicycle and Mr Slocum (Gerard Horan) and his car. The gentle humour sees to come into its own as we reach the station and Mrs Rooney is helped to the platform by Tommy (Ian Conningham), Mr Barrell (James Hayes) and the beautifully portrayed Miss Fitt (Catherine Cussak). The humour, however, is just to get our guard down as concern for the lateness of the train ("15 minutes late on a 30 minute run, its unheard of") causes concern all round.
Finally, the blind and irascible Mr Rooney (Michael Gambon) is found, led by a young local lad (Jerry - played by Aidan Dunlop and Oliver Barry-Brook alternately) who earns pennies helping him out and he and his wife head off home, a slow, lonely trip through a growing storm broken by stilted conversation, the return of the boy and just enouig information to break our hearts.
The Jermyn Street Theatre's intimacy works so very well with this incredibly crafted production of a trully moving play. What a beautiful evening