Moment, Bush Theatre, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Brought over to the Bush from Dublin in David Horan's consummately well-conceived and immaculately acted production, Moment by Deirdre Kinahan offers one of most quietly shattering evenings in the theatre that I have experienced. It's a Prodigal Son play with several gut-wrenching twists. This classic figure returns here for an overnight visit to his Chapelizod home in the good-looking shape of successful artist, Nial (Ronan Leahy) who, in a surprise departure from the norm, brings a woman with him.

The action is set in a suburban kitchen whose cleanliness comes to seem more and more like the token of a repressive cover-up. Seeds of unease are sown amid the quiche-warming preparations. It's clear that it's only by accident that Niamh, the edgy, resentful older daughter (an excellently raw Maeve Fitzgerald) is made privy and party to the homecoming and there's the telling embarrassment that her easier-going sister Kate (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) seems to have taken care to leave her children with her in-laws. Both sisters are anxious about the way Teresa, their warm but nervy mother (Deirdre Donnelly), is forgetful over her medication.

The play beautifully captures the strained banter and backchat as the rising international career of Nial is discussed alongside the more constricted CVs of his siblings. Ruth (Rebecca O'Mara), the English curator he has he in tow, first drops the bombshell that they were recently married and then, meaning only to aerate the situation with honesty, opens up a crevasse of horror in the low-key conviviality by admitting that her mother thought the marriage was a mistake because of Nial's "history". When he was a teenager, Nial, it emerges, killed Niamh's best friend (who is seen in eerily heart-rending flashbacks). The play does not say anything so crude as that gaol was the making of him but it brilliantly conveys how the pill-popping, dependent mother, has imprisoned her daughters in her world of blackmailing denial. It also acutely recognises that there is no real external position from which one can adjudicate over whose rights should take priority – those of Nial who wants to salvage from his wreckage or those of Niamh who refuses to relinquish the principle that international celebrity as an artist is not just deserts for the murderer of her best friend. Go.

To 26 March (020 8743 5050)

Comments