THEATRE/ Between the Lines: Playwright Declan Hughes on Thomas Kilroy

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The Independent Culture
The old man worked at the bench, shavin' the yella timbers in the sunlight. They niver spoke. No need for words. Nuthin' was heard but the sound of timber. Then wan day . . . wan day the boy left. He put down the tools outta his hands. Again, nare a word. The old man came to the door with him. They kissed wan another. Then the mother came like a shadow from the house an' she kissed the boy too. Then the boy walked down the road in the dust 'n the hot sun. 'N way in the far distance of the city he could hear them, the sound of the hammers 'n they batin' the timbers inta the shape o' the cross.

THESE are the final lines of Thomas Kilroy's extraordinary play, Talbot's Box. The dying testament of Matt Talbot, Dublin labourer, reformed alcoholic and religious mystic, it is an epiphany of intense beauty and simplicity. The play sets Talbot, a kind of spiritually racked Everyman, down in a carnival of earthy distractions - the Catholic Church, politics, the family, sex - and follows him as he battles to retain his own acute sense of self, to know his own darkness.

Kilroy has said he was attempting to write 'a play about aloneness, its cost to the person and the kind of courage required to sustain it'. The mythological resonance of these lines - of a boy growing to maturity, leaving his parents' house and walking down the road towards his own death - both embraces that formulation and transcends it.

Declan Hughes' play 'New Morning' is at the Bush Theatre, London W12 (081- 743 3388)

(Photograph omitted)