Brace yourself and don’t sit up front – you’re in for a ride. Decadent Theatre’s production of A Skull in Connemara is a smashing dark romp set in a small community in Connemara. This dark comedy is entertaining, hilarious in parts, and could certainly be part of an enjoyable evening – especially with the Everyman Theatre’s student pricing. Even if you don’t get some of the play’s references to the thrills of the bumpy slide at Galway’s Leisureland, the play would make for memorable date night to be sure.
Our story follows Mick Dowd (John Olohan), who is tasked with the unenviable job of exhuming bodies from the local cemetery to make new for the field’s newly deceased residents. What follows is a tale of loss, mistrust, rumour, and intrigue paired with lovely examples of slagging, banter and false praise as Dowd must dig up his late wife’s grave. Having died under murky circumstances, Dowd must enlist a Garda, Thomas Hanlon, to watch him dig up his wife’s remains. Accompanying him in the task is young Mairtin, Thomas’ younger brother. This ne’er-do-well excels at making big trouble in this small town. All the while, Maryjohnny Rafferty, played by famed Irish-language actress Bríd Ní Neachtain, makes frequent visits to Dowd’s residents for a nip of poitín. The banter between the play’s elder characters is exquisite, with Olohan and Ni Neachtain putting in great performances as they bring the town’s intrigue to light. Listening to them talk is like being transported to another world.
The transformation is aided by Owen McCarthaigh’s dark, gloomy set-design that captures a wind-swept, rugged small village atmosphere where the whispering winds is heavy with the cold breeze and the heated whispers surrounding the mysterious death of Dowd’s wife more than seven years prior.
The play is enjoyable, but it is not without flaws – though laugh-out-loud funny in many parts, it seems a bit disjointed. The first act follows a narrative structure, setting up a mystery, while the second sets about quickly – too quickly – to unravel it. At one point, drunken madness ensues on stage with mallets. For your own good, don’t sit too close to the stage as pieces from the stage fly about during the performance. The characters seemed too far removed here – too far in to the madness – and the scene dragged on a bit. To close, we have a less than convincing ambiguous ending – challenging the audience to think, but not too much.
Overall, A Skull in Connemara is worth the price of admission for a classy evening or a date night at the theatre, especially with the Everyman Palace Theatre’s student pricing.
When: Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd March, 8pm.
Where: Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork City.
Tickets: €20; €18 concession; €15 on opening night; €9 student rate (Tuesday and Wednesday).