Terminus, Young Vic, London

3.00

Tortured trio left in limbo on the Liffey

As if sanctioned by their spiritual and literary forebears, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, contemporary Irish dramatists have no fear of "automatic" writing, interminable monologues, word games, cheap rhymes, bouncing verbal clusters and unpredictable structures.

All of these traits are clear in Mark O'Rowe's production of his own Abbey Theatre play – revived for a world tour after its Dublin premiere in 2007 and Edinburgh Festival run the next year – about three Dublin characters, named A, B and C, caught up in a vortex of unlikely incident, murder and sexual excess.

Combining the rollercoaster vitality of Enda Walsh's Cork fantasies and the dark anguish of Brian Friel's Faith Healer (without that play's profound spiritual agony), Terminus isolates its three protagonists like souls in a Blakean vision of Purgatory, assailed by troops of angels and swarming worms and demons, doomed to writhe in a halfway house of memory, terror and helplessness.

A is a Samaritans volunteer unwisely embroiled in a patient's case that runs parallel to her estrangement from B, her own sexually rhapsodic daughter. C is a murdering psychopath, unconnected to either, but who embarks on a death-defying escapade in a runaway lorry that judders into A's life, by chance, on the Dublin quays at top speed.

A and B reach a point of reunion, while B and C are linked by destiny on the top of a building-site crane, one falling to oblivion after a riotous night out, the other dragged to the dark in a pact with the devil that yields an unexpected, crowd-pleasing performance of a Bette Midler song.

There's something a bit forced about O'Rowe's writing, which careens along with a lot of hit-and-miss about it. The prose is self-consciously sing-song in the Joycean manner, but the rhyming is repetitive and frequently banal, losing pungency the harder it tries.

The actors, however, are another matter; they are faultless. The two women – the long-haired Olwen Fouéré and her gamine opposite and offspring, Catherine Walker – rise like molluscs from shells in Philip Gladwell's extraordinary half-lighting to grab the audience by the throat.

And between them, Declan Conlon as C struts confidently into his fighting and raping, his car rides and carnage, his date with dark destiny, like a Wild West gunslinger, sucking on Lockets and stocking up with a roll-call of assorted sweeties before the show-down in a runaway lorry.

Each actor speaks in rotation, three times. This is an ambitious attempt to re-cast the narrative form as in Friel's Faith Healer, in which the same story of spiritual loss and redemption is told in different versions by three characters in just four long spates. But O'Rowe doesn't achieve the same revelatory uplift; this is mere story-telling with apocalyptic overtones.

Still, it's better than yet another tale of social woe unravelling in a predictable linear fashion. Language is out on a spree, as Kenneth Tynan once said of Brendan Behan, though it is not as bracing, witty or vaudevillian as in Behan, or even Beckett. But having broken through with a monologue drama ten years ago – the brilliant Howie the Rookie – O'Rowe confirms that he's in for the long haul.

To 16 April ( www.youngvic.org)

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk