This eerily beautiful tale of a boozer packs a powerful punch… PATRICK MARMION reviews The Dry House
The Dry House (Marylebone Theatre, London)
Verdict: gloomy beauty
Eugene O’Hare’s new play, starring Kathy Kiera Clarke (Derry Girls idiot Aunt Sarah), is as bleak and beautiful work as you might imagine.
The subject is extreme alcoholism in a Northern Irish border town, but it is really about love, fear and grief.
Written only last year, it feels like it’s been there forever and has a lyricism befitting Brian Friel. But don’t let that kid trick you into thinking you’re in for an easy ride.
Our heroine Chrissy (Mairead McKinley) is a power amp boozer, long since barred from the last chance saloon. We find her buried in a small sticky mess of a house.
Behind closed curtains we are greeted by a dirty sofa, piles of clothes and a complementary scattering of empty bottles and bent cans.
Our heroine Chrissy (Mairead McKinley) is a power amp boozer, long since barred from the last chance saloon. We find her buried in a small sticky mess of a house
O’Hare’s genius as a writer is in sticking to the rugged accents of the characters. “God must have hung the day he made you,” curses Chrissy at one point
In this desperation, her sister Claire (Clarke) walks, hoping to keep Chrissy on her promise to go to a clinic.
Drinking, of course, masks deep pain. Chrissy has lost her daughter Heather – her talkative ghost is played by a cherubic Carla Langley. During her lifetime, she too had her problems – which may be exaggerated and are intended to prevent the play from becoming sentimental.
O’Hare’s genius as a writer is in sticking to the rugged accents of the characters. “God must have hung the day he made you,” curses Chrissy at one point.
But later she recalls a childhood memory that “dissolves like Solpadeine in a glass of gin.”
Writing like this is in itself a wonderful strong drink for an actor. McKinley’s Chrissy enjoys every line like a shot of tequila. Clarke’s character has her own secrets, but above all she is tough, tenacious and tender in caring for her sister.
Both are bound together in love for Langley’s prodigal daughter, who lights up the stage like an angel of mercy.
With a very grim sexual encounter and talk of suicide, it’s enough to make you make the promise, as they say in Ireland. My promise though is to be sure and see O’Hare’s next.