Poignancy of men without women

Boss Grady's Boys Arches Theatre, Glasgow

This is an adroit piece of revival-work by Andy Arnold's Arches Theatre Company, their UK premiere of this decade-old Sebastian Barry drama coming between his Royal Court hit The Steward of Christendom, and his new play Our Lady of Sligo, currently in rehearsal at the National.

It's a typically ambitious venture from a producing house that subsidises itself by doubling as a successful night-club venue, and the production imbues Barry's joyously heart-tugging lyricism with the drama and emotional resonance it merits.

In a marvellously fluid blend of present action, flashback, reminiscence and apparitional dream-sequences, the play tells the story of elderly bachelor brothers Josey and Mick, living together on a remote hill farm on the Cork/ Kerry border - a meagre, 40-acre birthright too small to divide. Their mother having died when they were boys, leaving them to the untender care of their bitter, black-tempered father, they have spent their lives almost entirely apart from women, becoming to one another the closest to spouse and helpmeet each will ever know - while remaining exactly what they are, unschooled men cut from old traditional cloth, and with nary an eddy from any sexual undercurrents to trouble the waters between them.

At once achingly elegiac and richly celebratory, Barry's portrait of their relationship, and the lives and times that have shaped it, endows each character with a subtly distilled eloquence of voice, boldly poetic and heartfelt while never remotely overblown, thanks to its firmly-planted roots in Ireland's musical colloquialisms. Whether in Josey's hilariously extended bedtime prayer, soliciting individual blessings on virtually their entire complement - extant and departed - of friends, relatives, farm animals and worldly goods, or Mick's almost unbearably poignant speculations about the unknown girl he might have married in America, had he been free to emigrate, writer and cast reve al the depths of profundity in these variously simple lives - lives untouched by books or luxuries, yet redolent with an ardent, unashamed love for nature's diurnal panorama and graced with an overriding tenderness.

Not that Barry paints any pastoral idyll; those aforementioned depths also include wells of unexpressed pain, regret and longing, much of it centred on the brothers' half-articulated grief for the female comforts they've been denied, and the guilt-tinged loneliness and frustration that the other cannot assuage, but also piercingly glimpsed in the supporting roles of their parents and neighbouring acquaintances. It's a testament equally to Barry's script and Arnold's production that these multiple dimensions are so eloquently realised, the dialogue gliding between exterior and interior realms with wonderful ease and vividness.

While all eight players acquit themselves with distinction, Bill Hickey and Donncha Crowley's central performances as Josey and Mick are nothing short of inspirational, though in the gentlest, unshowiest sense possible, making rhythm, gesture and silence count for as much as the words themselves, illuminating the power of their mutual compassion with an intensity that repeatedly pricks the eyes and prompts a smile at one and the same moment.

Until 21 March (0141 221 4001), then at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 25-29 March (0131 228 1404)

Sue Wilson

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virtualisation / Cloud Infrastructure Engineer (VMware, Cloud)

    £38000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virt...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Android App Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum