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Review: Playboy of the Western World

The Synge play that after it’s original debut is now showing in the Lyric theatre as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival. It is a piece of Irish history is one that you may want to check out. Originally set in the early 1900’s, this new adaptation brings the Playboy forward into the 1970’s, whilst upholding the foundational plot. With dialogue that is literal Irish to English translation, it can be difficult to ascertain the meaning of their words at times as they speak almost poetically, but packed with common colloquialisms to ensure the audience’s understanding, or a laugh at least. The Playboy of the Western World demonstrates the small Irish town love for a story about a newcomer, and the gossip surrounding him; something that is all to prominent even today. This was especially reflected in the minimalist stage setting of a local pub that is the centre of local events. Peegan Mike is a young and independent woman who is struggling with the mundanity of life in the Irish countryside of Mayo. She is to be married off to a man by the name of Shawn Keogh. Just as Peegan was hoping for a burst of excitement in her life, we too were more than ready for the eagerly anticipated introduction to the male lead; a young lad, dirty from his week of walking across the Irish countryside, and seeking shelter from the peelers, whilst boasting the tale of how he killed his father. He evaded judgement and ridicule, instead becoming quite the attraction for the locals, specifically the women, but even as an audience member I was seduced by the emotional portrayal of Christie Mahon’s story. The entrance of the plays equivalent to post-makeover Sandy from Grease was a breath of fresh air, and we reveal in the hilarity of the apex predator seeking a night with the town's famous father killer. The character of Widow Quin brings a new level of humor otherwise missing from Playboy, and compliments Peegan’s character in a contrasting demonstration of female empowerment. Widow Quin’s troop of trouble-seeking teenage girls brought a lofty sense of youthful lightheartedness that brightens up the stage, and diverges from the otherwise serious tones of the plot. The second act sees the action kicked into high gear, as the towns people raise their pitchforks and embark on a witch hunt with no certain suspect. Ultimately I left the Lyric Theatre fully invested in the drama of these country folks lives. Slow to ignite, the Playboy of the Western World ends in a blazing fire. Contextually confusing at times, all the while familiar, the characters and the audience alike are kept on their toes, with twists and turns throughout the play, as the playboy’s past threatens to catch up with him. 

To book tickets use this link, running in The Lyric until 2nd Nov

Review by Callum Skeffington

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