Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
Be prepared to be intrigued and mystified!
Until this final moment of bathos and dissipation of dramatic suspense, we had enjoyed an evening of rising tension, as Sandor, a powerful, sinister and obviously neurotic character manipulates Joe, a vulnerable young man whom he holds in thrall to his will, with undercurrents of sexual ambiguity, violence and romantic interest to leaven the whole. Dean Smith plays Joe as an endearing weakling caught in the web of Sandor’s obsession, with moments of absurdity and humour that leaven the sense of dread in the first half of the play. Changes in the power dynamic among the characters of Sandor (Joe Eyre), his mother (Karen Drury) and Joe’s “sister”, Tilley (Rachel Hart), skilfully kept us in expectation of an exciting crisis throughout the first half of the play.
It’s after the interval that inconsistencies of characterisation and plot arise to erode our credibility in the story and the characters. Suspended belief is challenged when the would-be kidnappers are allowed to escape, for example. These are the script’s faults rather than the director’s or the actors’, of course.
I enjoyed the evening despite these reservations about the play’s plot and construction. It’s full of suspense and I found myself intensely curious as to what the outcome would be. Dean Smith brought Joe to life as Sandor’s psychological captive; Rachel Hart was sluttish and funny in the role of Tilley; Paul Opacic as Paul was a decent man trapped in the dilemma of choosing between his daughter and a lover. Perhaps Eva Sayer as his daughter was a little shrill but Florence Cady was beautiful and aristocratic and Karen Drury’s portrayal of Sandor’s neurotically possessive mother was faultless.
This is a good night out at the theatre. Be ready to be mystified!
This review also appears on the Theatre and Arts page of Essential Surrey Magazine today. /www.essentialsurrey.co.uk/theatre-arts/review-gallowglass-yvonne-arnaud/